Alice: "It would be so nice if something made sense".
With apologies to Lewis Carroll, we've truly gone through the looking glass. Up is down and down is up. White is black and Black is white. At least, it would seem so listening to House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R) - Texas tell us on September 13th that the Republican majority has done such a good job in cutting spending that he is declaring "victory", and there is simply no more waste to cut from the federal budget. Oh Really?
Tom, How many times do I suspect thee of BS? Let me count the ways: Let's start with 6,371 pet projects in the transportation bill signed into law by that paragon of thriftiness George W. Bush.
Tom, here are some highlights in cased you were dozing when this bill came through the house:
From the Washington Post, Thursday August 11, 2005 -
1. $2.3M for the beautification of the Ronald Reagan Freeway in California.
2. $6M for graffiti cleanup in New York.
3. $4M for the National Packard (yes, the car) Museum in Ohio and the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn Michigan.
4. $2.4M on a Red River National Wildlife Refuge Vistor Center in Louisiana5. $1.2 Million to install lighting and steps to equip an interpretative facility at the Blue Ridge Music Center. Oh, and these were just the "small ones".
The Huge Porkers in this bill included:
6. $200+M for a bridge in Alaska that would serve an island with 50 residents.
7. $125M for another bridge in Anchorage Alaska - (Is there some sort of mass migration of people to Alaska that need this transportation infrastructure?)
8. $15M to purchase three ferries and establish a ferry system from Rockaway Peninsula to Manhattan.
All in all, the "earmarks" as they are called in Congress (You and I call it PORK) are worth over $24 Billion dollars.
Mr. Delay's declaration of victory in terms of the elimination of waste is as incredibly ridiculous as the President's misguided statement declaring "Mission Accomplished" regarding hostilities in Iraq.
The President has said "We will spend what it takes to rebuild the Gulf Coast Region". Oh, and by the way, he said we don't need to raise taxes to do it.
With the escalating costs of the war in Iraq, and now the President's amazing policy of throwing everything including the Kitchen Sink to the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast area, we are spiraling into a sea of red-ink that will take generations to eliminate. According to the Congressional Budget Office, our deficit projections NOT including the cost of War in Iraq and the current estimates of the costs of rebuilding the gulf range from $331billion in 2005 to $57billion in 2015. So, in 10 years, we will still be in the red by $57 BILLION dollars!
Mr. Delay must be smoking something that I stopped using in college. The President must be snorting something he used in college. I'm waiting for the Supreme Court to declare budget surpluses unconstitutional. The town has gone completely insane.
We must focus on the congressional elections of 2006 to send a very clear message to Washington. We aren't stupid sheep. Don't try and tell us that we have conquered the beast of federal spending and have no fat left in the budget. Don't try and tell us that we can continue to cut taxes and rebuild the Gulf Coast and fight the war in Iraq at the same time. We must have a focused and aggressive campaign to eliminate the budget deficits as soon as is possible. I'm not interested in bequeathing this debt to my kid's children. I believe we must focus on the following:
1. Elmiinate every earmark in budgetary legislation that is not crtiical for homeland security. The president should call the congress immediately demand that legislation rolling back all earmarks from 2004 forward be eliminated. This would trim approximately $100billion in spending. I'm sorry Ohio, but if you want the Packard Museum remodeled, hold a raffle.
2. Keep spending levels at 2004 budget levels in the Energy bill. As an example, some areas of funding, such as the President's Coal research initiative, received a 261% increase in funding from 2004 - 2005. This should be brought back to 2004 levels resulting in a savings of over $500M dollars.
3. Defer the Medicare prescription drug benefit until 2007. The current estimates are around $500B over 10 years. If we put the benefit off for two years, we save $100B.
4. Immediately begin to means test entitlement programs such as Social Security. The AARP will yelp like a scalded dog, but so bet it. Anyone with the means to pay should see a draw-down in benefits. There are numerous calculations, but we could keep it simple. Anyone who receives income outside of Social Security that equals 80% of their total income flow (whether by job or investment income) would see their Social Security benefits eliminated. In other words, if Social Security benefits only comprise 20% of your total income, then you lose the benefit after you have received the amount of contribution you put into the system.
1. Immediately begin to offer long-term "war & disaster relief" bonds from the treasury. Sold only to Americans, these notes, with a 20-30 year maturity would be a basis for gathering revenues into the treasury wih a financial benefit for our kids and grandkids to offset the deficits we are racking up. Tie the interest payments to the current T-Bill yields and index it to inflation.
2. Place a 10 cent per gallon gas tax on all gasoline sales and pour the revenues into the disaster relief program. This tax would be in place for 5 years. The US consumes about 9M barrels of gasoline per day. That's about 495 million gallons per year. A 10 cent per gallon tax would yield about $90B over five years, roughly half the current estimated cost of the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast. The other benefit of this would be to force the market into higher rates of production of fuel efficient cars and trucks as the consuming public would demand better fuel economies.
3. Allow the Bush tax cuts to expire. The country is in a time of financial crisis that will only get worse if the deficits are allowed continue to rise. The tax cuts will only add to the deficits in the short-term. You want tax cuts? wait until we have a budget surplus.
4. Eliminate all tax credits to the Energy companies. Folks, Exxon posted profits of $10B in the second quarter of 2005. This is the largest gain of profit in a quarter by a company EVER. I don't think they need the tax break.
5. Defer the expiration of the inheritance or Estate tax. This would save approximately $27B per year in funds that are soon be eliminated based on legislation in the house.
While there is no single solution, it must be noted that playing to political fantasies like taking tax increases off the table is highly irresponsible by the President and members of congress. Everything must be on the table. Start with the pork, then get to the hard stuff. Reduction in entitlements, deferment of tax cuts, and increases in some taxes must be considered as part of an overall solution to the current and pending economic "troubles".
I'm interested in your thoughts on how we get some fiscal sanity back into Washington.
Tell me what you think,