Monday, March 06, 2006

When We Will Learn?

So an article on msnbc.com reports that the United States is nearing the credit limit set by congress. A staggering $8.18 trillion. Frankly, I see this as inexcusable. But before you jump to point fingers at any particular political party, I'm afraid the ones I blame are the American people.

We're a spoiled bunch, us Americans. We expect the latest and greatest, and we are willing to go into tens of thousands of dollars in debt, only to be bailed out with tax cuts, bankruptcy, and anything else that will help us maintain our current lifestyle. But when we will learn? This country can no longer survive this way. I'm afraid things are going to have to go.

What is true for the American people is true of the government. It is a simple concept. We spend more than we earn, and it's a difficult habit to break. We enjoy having the latest cell phones, broadband in the home, two cars, expensive houses, or just a lifestyle of eating out a little too often.

I am perplexed when we hear about the budget deficit in the government. The article pointed out that the current administration says we will halve the budget deficit by the end of his term in office. Halve the deficit? That's not good enough, expecially considering it doesn't include the unexpected costs of the war and Katrina. Halving the deficit just means we are going into greater debt--just a tad slower.

I'm afraid it is time for some drastic measures. Measures that people won't like, such as cutting programs that are otherwise good programs. Everyone is used to getting everything, but it can't happen. Some difficult decisions need to be made. What isn't necessary? Or, perhaps, what is necessary? Because I'm sure there are people everywhere who think a given program is necessary.

What must go? Do we, for example, really need a manned mission to Mars? Ask the NASA scientist, and you have a resounding "yes". But let's face it, when choosing between basic healthcare for the elderly and the poor, and the bragging rights to say we made it to Mars first, guess what? Even this guy who once considered becoming an aerospace engineer knows what choice to make.

What about New Orleans? What happened there is any politician's worst nightmare. You have a city devestated by mother nature. And, as inspiring as it is to say that the city will once again rise to the greatness it once was, you have to ask: does it justify the expense?

Frankly, I don't know the answer. If I had to guess, I would say the answer is No, as much as I hate to admit it. Instead, we need to relocate people, get them set up in properous cities, and save the country more money. More deficit. More debt.

But even if I'm wrong, I think this illustrates the kind of decisions that must be made. We have to start cutting programs. Take D.A.R.E. This was a great idea, but guess what? It didn't work. It doesn't work, but no politician is willing to take money away from a program that on the outside seems to be a beneficial thing. What does that say about his (or her) stance on the war on drugs? But, it is money being thrown away. Or how about No Child Left Behind. Another program that seems great on the surface, but just costs money with little to show for it.

Yet, it is the American people who need to step up to the plate here. They need to be the ones that are willing to say, "Hey, as much as I agree this program is doing some good, it just costs too much and we're going to have do without."

I'm afraid most of us are far too quick to place blame on the government. But Democrats and Republicans alike have made decisions that led to where we are...and now it is time for the American people to accept the reality. Political parties have done this to appease us, the people.

$8.18 trillion. The amount is staggering. Insurmountable, it would seem. And it is, unless something is done. Raising the debt limit isn't the answer. Reducing government spending is. It's that simple.

3 comments:

julia said...

I couldn't disagree more re: New Orleans. That area is vital to shipping and oil production. The Gulf Coast provides a huge amount of seafood for our tables as well. New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf region need to be rebuilt, intelligently, with lots of thought to the hurricanes that will invariably sweep thru the area.

I would never advocate wiping a city off the map. The war, however, would be a good thing to stop.

RyanBruner said...

You may be right, Julia. But the point isn't whether or not New Orleans should be rebuilt...but that we are at the point that very hard decisions need to be made where even valuable investments the goverment are going to have to be re-evaluated.

Ignore the effects of Katrina and the War, and we still have a huge budget deficit. So, those two examples aren't enough to solve the problem. As much as we want everything from the government, we can't have everything any longer.

Should New Orleans be rebuilt? Perhaps it should...but it a prime example of the place we're at now in this country. We can't afford to rebuild New Orleans, no matter how much benefit there is, unless we make cuts in other key areas. And so, the question isn't whether New Orleans adds value, it is does it add MORE value than other programs that might need to be cut in order to afford rebuilding?

(And again, I don't know the answer to that question. It isn't really the point!)

Anonymous said...

We can't afford a war either, but we have that.