Buying our favors with out own debt

Congratulations! You and I have just taken part in setting a record.

For the five months that ended Feb. 29, the U.S. government set a record for spending more money than it took in.

If you are keeping track, we spent more than we took in by $263-billion. The way things are going, our total deficit for this year will be something like $410-billion.

Way to go, USA!

Now, whose fault is this?

It's the president's fault, for starters. Like many modern Republicans, he thinks it is "conservative" to keep borrowing money, instead of spending less or raising taxes.

It's Congress' fault, too. Congress is run these days by Democrats. They like spending money, especially if the Republicans are doing it, too.

And, of course, mostly it's your fault and my fault.

Yep. Deep down, we like having a federal government that spends more money than it takes in. That means we are getting stuff for "free."

A couple of things demonstrated our problem. They deal with what is known in Congress as "earmarks."

There is a technical definition of "earmark," but it boils down to, "something that a member of Congress wants to spend money on."

Now, make no mistake: Even if we could cut out every bit of pork-barrel spending from the federal budget, our problems would not be solved.

But it would be a start.

Yet Congress refused to make even that start this past week. Our Senate voted not to impose even a one-year ban on this kind of spending. The vote was not close: 71-29. Senators in both parties voted "no."

(Our state's senior senator, Bill Nelson, a Democrat, voted against the ban. Our junior senator, Mel Martinez, a Republican, voted for it. All three senators running for president voted "yes" as well.)

Here is the second related item from last week. It was a campaign letter sent to supporters from U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-St. Petersburg, who is Florida's undisputed champion of pork-barrel spending.

The gist of Young's letter was this: Look at all the good stuff I have given you over the years! Look how good it has been for the local economy!

His letter mentions VA hospitals, beach renourishment, improvements to U.S. 19, and MacDill Air Force Base.

"Remember, every time you turn on your water faucet," Young wrote, "the water that comes out just might be flowing from the C.W. Bill Young Reservoir that was funded by a congressional earmark."

And you know, all of that is perfectly true. In fact, Young's letter names only a few of the things for which he has brought federal money to the area over the years.

In return, we name things after him and re-elect him, and local elected officials trip over themselves to praise him. If he ever retires, he will retire with honor and universal congratulations.

But if I had a hand in writing the federal laws, I would at least try to get this requirement added:

Every plaque that names a project after the member of Congress who got it built should include the dollar figure for how much it increased the national debt.

Then all the children and grandchildren who will pay the interest on it can come and see for themselves.

Maybe they, too, will remember us when they turn on their faucet. More likely, though, it will be a different household plumbing fixture that reminds them of what we did with their money.

Buying our favors with out own debt 03/15/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 17, 2008 2:58pm]

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