Higgins: More or LessWritten by Tim Higgins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
As the debate over raising the debt ceiling drags on longer than the line at the DMV to renew your driver’s license; politicians and pundits want to tell us what this debate is really all about. Of course, mostly what they try to tell us is who’s at fault and why not solving it will cause the sky to fall, dogs and cats to live together, and a financial meltdown that will make Chernobyl look like a camp fire.
I’d like to say that their statements are not driven by political agendas, entrenched ideology, and the desire to tell us in a way that won’t offend us that we are too stupid to understand what’s going on and what’s at stake here. If I did however, I’d be as guilty of misleading you as they are. For strangely enough, the problem is a pretty simple one: More or Less?
This issue has finally drawn the battle lines (though most seem unable to realize it), not only for debt ceiling debate and the coming election of 2012; but perhaps for many days to come. Do we want more or less government? Should we expect more or less from government? Should the US be doing more or less to ‘police’ countries unable to do so for themselves? Should we be doing more or less in the way of nation-building around the world? Perhaps most importantly to this discussion, should government spend more or less than it takes in?
We all know some of the arguments calling for more. In times of war and natural disaster, the government may find itself in a position where it simply must spend what’s required to fulfill its obligations to citizens. The world needs the US, as the beacon of freedom in the world, to come to the aid of those seeking it. We cannot stand idly by while those facing oppression or devastation are in need. The arguments for less can be just as compelling in the discussion however.
Setting aside that we don’t appear to fight ‘wars’ anymore, or at least ones where a formal ‘Declaration of War’ is voted on by Congress, we must face the fact that we have been engaged in military action continuously (actively or passively) since the beginning of WWII. Even if we concede that the President has the right to send troops into situations to protect US citizens or ‘vital interests’; this hardly makes the argument for basing troops around the world ‘just in case’, sending troops to fight at the request of the UN, or putting troops in harm’s way in the efforts of NATO not directly tied to the treaty obligations of this organization.
Coming to the aid of areas hit by earthquake, wind, fire, or flood in this country (and others) might reasonably be said to take precedence over military problems around the world. This nation has always been among the first to do so. Must we always accept the greatest responsibility in these efforts however?
Besides, there’s also no reason why doing any of these things might not also demand commensurate spending cuts in other places. When expending funds in military and humanitarian efforts, are we not also obligated to reduce spending (or at least the growth of spending) in other programs, in the name of fiscal responsibility? Should not such necessary aid bring an equal reduction in non-essential programs, ear-marked projects, and other discretionary spending as an offset?
And oh by the way, when did we redefine something as a ‘spending cut’ when all we are doing is reducing the rate of its growth? When did government programs take on a life of their own, granting them automatic increases in their budgets regardless of the rate of inflation or the fiscal state of the union? When did any attempt at such negligible growth reductions become ‘draconian’ in nature, a term ostensibly reserved for subtraction of a cruel or unusually severe nature.
But don’t look for the answers to any of these questions to come from the discussion going on in Washington, nor from the mainstream media punditry over the fiscal debate going on across the country. Look instead for some super-glue to hold duct tape onto the Band-Aid that covers the seeping wound of the national debt. Look as well, for the congratulatory back-patting, handshakes, and ‘job well done’ acknowledgment of legislators for whatever they do come up with; along with the mandatory “we wish we could have done more, if only the other side were willing to compromise” invective.
You should expect little more than this from those who can’t come up with up with the answer because they can’t or won’t understand the question: More or Less?