Monday, May 11, 2009

The Hierarchy of Political Honor and Disgrace

Don’t know if you followed the ‘big news’ on Monday but guess what? The budget deficit estimates for this year have been revised significantly upwards to over $1.84 trillion for 2009.

And then, not 2 hours later, President Obama announced his health care reform package that will provide health care coverage for the up to 44 million currently uninsured in this country (more on the veracity of that number in a future posting)

That ought to be a cheap new program.

He said it would help save $2 trillion down the road. Which road is that? The same ‘infrastructure superhighway’ that Al Gore invented? The ‘Bridge to the 21st Century’ that Bill Clinton spoke so fondly of, whatever that meant. The “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska?

Someone should hire an auctioneer because the next thing you will hear is: “Do I hear $2 trillion? Anybody? Anybody?” You know it's coming. I remember several years when the CBO revenue forecast was off by $100 billion or so, up and down. The current projection is that tax revenues will be only 15.1% of GDP or the lowest amount since the good old days of 1950.

For those of you out there who don’t want to cut spending, raise taxes or a little bit of both, then you must have concluded that deficit-spending is ok and dramatically increasing the national debt is ‘no problem’. So why not let’s go ahead and just raise the national debt to $100 trillion and party like it is 1999 all over again?

With apologies to ‘3 Dog Night’, “$20 trillion (in debt) is the most cowardly number that you’ll ever do.”

I have been thinking about this for some time and I think it is time to postulate a ‘Hierarchy of Political Courage’, especially when it comes to budget/tax and fiscal matters.

President Obama is catching a lot of grief from some quarters about his plans to spend more money and raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for it. Well, he is just doing what he said he was going to do during the campaign. Is there anything that he or the Democrat-controlled Congress is doing now that is radically different from what they promised during the campaign? Where were you last year?

I actually admire politicians who stick to their guns and do what they say they are going to do during a campaign. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with them or like what they are doing. I also can retain hope that they might “mature” in the job and do something transformational while in office. Nixon went to China; Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation after being relatively non-committal on the issue of slavery and Clinton signed into law welfare reform and agreed to the ‘Grand Budget Compromise of 1997’ as it will be known in 100 years when historians write about the last time America ever balanced the federal budget.

Sad but true…remember you heard it here first.

So here goes…see if you agree or disagree and think about your elected representatives with this in mind the next time you vote:

1. Reducing Spending Only (true belief in limited, smaller government)

2. Raising Taxes Only (true belief in funding large government on a current basis)

3. 50/50 compromise split between Raising Taxes and Cutting Spending

4. Cutting Taxes and Raising Spending (where is the shared sacrifice in any of that combination?)

5. Raise the Debt Ceiling and Bill the Kids for Everything!

‘1’ does mean the most courageous and ‘5’ denotes cowardice amongst the ethically-challenged, by the way.

Check out your elected representatives and senators using this scale the next time you read about them or get a mass mailing from their offices. If they don’t score a 1, 2 or a 3, then throw them out of office because they really do not care about anything other than getting re-elected. 1, 2 and 3’s at least are leaders and brave enough to vote their convictions with an eye to helping future generations.

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