Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 1, 2013

Happy Deficit Day, America! The fiscal precipice grows closer


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Each year the U.S. Treasury Department collects trillions of dollars in taxes. Last year that amount was $2.449 trillion, and this year it is projected to bring in $2.902 trillion.

If we look at federal spending on the conventional Gregorian calendar instead of the fiscal calendar, as of last Wednesday the federal government had already spent all of this year’s income, and every dollar spent after Wednesday is money it doesn’t have and has to be borrowed. That is called deficit spending and Wednesday was Deficit Day, the day after which every government action is performed on borrowed money.

Since there was at the time more than three months left in the year, between last Wednesday and Dec. 31 the federal government will spend about $10 billion each day that it doesn’t have, adding $900 billion more to the national debt. This is another year of profligate spending that bloats our already bloated national debt still further, pushing the total near the $17 trillion mark.

The Heritage Foundation created an example that puts our federal government’s fiscal irresponsibility in perspective: The median family income in the U.S. is $52,000 this year. If the median family spent money the way the government does, it will spend $64,000 this year, meaning it would put $12,000 on a credit card, without any regard for the $312,000 in existing debt the family already has accumulated. Other than many politicians and bureaucrats, who thinks this makes any sense at all?

Our government has so much debt that it breaks down to just slightly less per American citizen than the aforementioned median family’s annual income.

President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress demand yet another increase in the debt ceiling, opening the way for even more debt, although they want you to believe it’s only for paying existing bills.

A recent Bloomberg poll shows that 60 percent of the participants believe Congress should require spending cuts before raising the debt ceiling, even if that puts the nation at risk of default, while only 28 percent think the increase should be granted without conditions.

But congressional Democrats want no restrictions on spending, either now or in the future. That is the source of their influence with voters, hence their power to impose asinine laws like the Affordable Care Act on the American people, despite the people’s dislike for that law.

However, if spending limits do come about, projects like the $27 million to teach Moroccans to make pottery would have to go. And the highly important half-million dollar project to create a video game called “Prom Week” to enable Americans to relive their high school prom would be sacrificed. Maybe we don’t really need a $376 million renovation of the White House, and we will no longer be able to pay unemployment benefits to those 1,000 prisoners who collected weekly benefits over a four-month period, costing taxpayers $7 million.

You may argue that those examples of foolish spending and waste amount to pocket change, but the complete list contains many more examples, and we must remember that pennies here and there add up to dollars, and millions of dollars here and there add up to billions of dollars. More importantly: The government has no business doing any of these things, at any cost, ever.

And, with the end of the fiscal year upon them, federal departments, agencies and offices have been busy spending whatever is left in their budgets, fearing that if they don’t spend it all, they will get less next time.

Some examples from The Washington Post: “the Veterans Affairs Department spent more than a half million dollars for artwork, the Coast Guard spent nearly $200,000 on ‘cubicle furniture rehab,’ and the Agriculture Department spent $140,000 on toner cartridges in just one day.”

And, according to Fox News, “federal agencies last week spent money on junkets for Chinese wine connoisseurs, Christmas tree initiatives, radio ads promoting New Jersey blueberries, a maple syrup recipe contest and produced a YouTube video to instruct on the proper handling of watermelons.”

So much for putting the interests of the taxpayers first.

Raising the debt ceiling is tied to a government shut down: raise the debt ceiling and everything is fine. Don’t raise it and the government shuts down. By the time you read this, government either will or won’t have been shut down. Either way, the term “shut down” is so far from accurate that it’s dishonest to use it. The government will “slow down,” not shut down. Sure, it will be hard on some, and the longer it lasts the harder it will be, but it’s not the crisis the Democrats and the media want us to think it is.

But in order to make everyone think it will be the end of the world, they have sacrificed their elitist façade of “tolerance” in favor of name-calling. The same people who cringe at calling terrorists and jihadists “terrorists” and “jihadists” have no problem calling Republicans and conservatives terrorists and jihadists, as well as hostage-takers, extremists, anarchists, arsonists and racists.

It should be no surprise that yet again politics has elbowed out integrity and service.

James H. “Smokey” Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a Daily Telegraph columnist.