Mortgaging our future

Published 6:03 pm Monday, November 21, 2005

By By Tray Smith
Before I get into the details of our federal budget, I am going to take a moment to put a billion dollars into perspective.
When stacked together in dollar bills, it is enough money to go around the world. It is more money than 99.999 percent of Americans will ever get their hands on. Bill Gates, the world's richest man, only has 50 billion dollars. The United States biggest oil companies combined will only have 96 billion dollars in profits this year.
But yet each year our government continues to spend huge sums of money in addition to what it takes in through tax revenues. This year alone that figure will be over $300 billion , and we sadly regard that as a success because it is substantially less than last year's deficit.
But the real indicator of fiscal responsibility is not our deficit. We could easily raise taxes in order to pay the deficit off, but we would still be spending billions of dollars on junk programs that waste the tax dollars of hard working Americans.
The real indicator of fiscal responsibility is our total amount of spending. And that number is much worse than the deficit. Over the 2006 fiscal year, we will spend more than 2500 billion dollars (actually $2.5 trillion) on federal programs. The final equation will look something like over $2.1 trillion in taxes paid by American citizens plus over $250 billion in borrowing which will equal over $2.5 trillion in total spending. One of our primary lenders is China. China is also one of our toughest economic rivals and could soon be a national security threat. By giving them that type of leverage over our economy, we are betraying our long-term strategic interest.
Among the projects taxpayer money has been appropriated for in recent years is an indoor rainforest in Iowa, $4 million for a bicycle/pedestrian trail in Calexico, CA, $223 million bridge to an island in Alaska with 50 residents, and $24.5 billion dollars in 2003 that is completely unaccounted for.
Facing this enormous problem, Congressional Republicans are now trying to show they are still the party of fiscal responsibility by enacting spending cuts that were proposed by President Bush early this year. However; at the most, the cuts will only equal $50 billion over five years. That means less than ten billion dollars each year will be cut from a budget of 250 billion dollars. In all, it will be a total cut of about four thousandths of a percent annually.
Four thousandths of our budget is not near enough money to help us end our fiscal woes. And what is truly sad about this is that those cuts are actually controversial, and some Democrats and moderate Republicans are claiming that they would "take to much away from vital public services."
My suggestion? Let's not just cut these services, let's eliminate them.
Then there will not even be a debate over how much to reduce spending for them, because they will not exist. Remember, there are also state and local governments in this country that are perfectly capable of providing services if their citizens need them. This model would result in local leaders deciding how our money is spent instead of bureaucrats and politicians in Washington dictating how our tax money is appropriated.
We should also overhaul our entire federal budget process so that it encourages less spending. The total annual growth of the federal government budget should not be allowed to exceed the rate of population growth plus the rate of inflation. The Constitution should be amended to give the President the power to use a line-item veto on appropriation bills, require a two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress to raise taxes, and require that the government balance its budget with the exception of when a declaration of war has been made. Medicare should be overhauled and the President's Social Security plan should be enacted in order to eliminate our long-term liabilities. Finally, an independent commission should be established every five years to review all government expenditures. The commission would decide which programs and agencies need to be eliminated and which should be kept; as well as which should be reformed. Their suggestions should then go immediately to Congress for an up or down vote. I am fine with borrowing money to finance a war, but the huge Medicare benefit on top of the huge expansion in educational spending on top of a huge increase in farm subsidies over the past four years are not expenses caused by the war on terror. But the answer to this problem is not a tax increase. I find it amusing that our politicians are always so quick to take from America's families in order to support the government, but they are always so slow to take away from the government in order to help families.
Admittedly, I am more worried about the deficit than most because it is my generation that is going to have to pay back that money. All lawmakers who do not realize this and do not act in the name of fiscal responsibility are simply not concerned about our future.
That is the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a freshman at Escambia Academy. He writes a political column for the Atmore Advance. He can be reached for comment at His column appears weekly.

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