Is There a Spirit of Compromise on the Debt-Ceiling Debate?

by Burt on July 25, 2011

“Where is the spirit of compromise?” some of the spenders are asking. “Shouldn’t we have tax hikes as well as spending cuts to slow down growth of the national debt?” Well, actually no. Taxpayers have been doing their part. But the stimulus packages of both Bush and Obama, and the array of federal goodies doled out in the last three years, have put the country in a big hole. We have been going into debt $4,100,000,000 more each day, and if our country is to continue as a beacon of freedom in the world, we must stop some of the spending.

How do we cut this $4.1 billion each day that we are borrowing to spend every day? We start with cuts in specific programs. It is essential that we be specific. To merely say, “We will cut $900 billion in defense over ten years,” is not specific. What specific weapons programs will be dropped? What overseas bases will be closed? What troops will be brought home and when? Those are the specific questions not being answered. In fact, the president has not proposed one serious, specific cut in this debate. That is why the discussions are stalled. Specifics are where the conversation really must begin.

What about the Republicans? Are they proposing cuts that are specific and helpful? The answer is yes. Here are some of the specific cuts that have emerged from the Republicans in the House. First, cut Amtrak’s $156.5 million annual subsidy. Amtrak is expensive and inefficient, which is no surprise. The first transcontinental railroads—the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads—were built in the 1860s and they ran about $60 million (in 1869 dollars) in the hole in building costs, and both went bankrupt (the Union Pacific several times) before the end of the 1800s. The Great Northern Railroad, which went from St. Paul to Seattle (with no federal subsidies) never went bankrupt. In fact, it may have been the best built railroad in the U. S. in the late 1800s, thanks to its builder, James J. Hill. If the federal subsidies to transcontinental railroads failed when first tried in the 1800s, why should we be surprised that they are failing now?

The Republicans also recommend eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities to save $333 million annually. We didn’t have these subsidies until the 1960s, and we had excellent literature (Hemingway and Faulkner) and art (from Whistler to Thomas Hart Benton). In fact, Mozart, DaVinci, and Shakespeare all produced excellent works without government subsidies. They sometimes had patrons—private support—but not government help, which is good because with government aid would have come potential government control over story plots and musical design. In my profession of history we had liberals and conservatives alike producing quality books with no government help before the 1960s, and we would save $333 million by cutting subsidies today.

The Republicans have also proposed cutting the Davis-Bacon Act, which raises the costs of construction all over the country in order to support union labor. In our current housing crisis, building cheaper homes and offices is essential, and cutting Davis-Bacon would save our nation $1 billion per year. Other suggested cuts by the Republicans include eliminating the Department of Energy grants to states for weatherization ($550 million), eliminating the mohair subsidy ($1 million), and eliminating the Ready to Learn TV program ($27 million). And many more, too.

Why is the president failing to offer any specific cuts? Even the mohair subsidy seems to be too valuable for him to sacrifice. The answer is that the flip side of every federal program is federal jobs. And those who hold government jobs want them to continue and will urge constituents to vote for their continuation. The Obama coalition heavily consists of groups that are dependent on government checks, and these millions of voters will work hard to perpetuate in power the people supporting these checks. Thus, for President Obama to suggest cutting any of these subsidies is to ask him to cut off voters and contributors to his 2012 re-election campaign.

We can thus understand why the debate over budget cuts has stalled. But let’s not kid ourselves about who is the adult in the room. A president who wants to perpetuate the growth of government—even as it suffocates the nation—is a mere politician seeking to raise taxes to attract and create new groups of dependents for his political campaign. I hope President Obama rises above this and joins the other adults in the room in making serious spending cuts that will preserve the financial integrity of our nation.

{ 1 trackback }

Rep. Steve King: Obama could be impeached over debt crisis « Freedom Corner
July 26, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: