In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Midnight Train to Bankruptcy

By now you've heard about Friday night's Congressional vote on a stopgap measure to continue funding the federal government for another two weeks until an actual budget for the next fiscal year can be crafted and voted on. The measure was purportedly necessary to forestall a "shutdown" of the federal government by midnight--the expiration of the last continuing resolution funding federal government operations--but the vote approving the measure actually passed a few minutes after midnight (the brief interregnum had no appreciable impact).

Among other features, the budget measure "cuts" $38.5 billion from federal expenditures over the remainder of the current fiscal year; prohibits the use of federal or local government funds to pay for abortions in the District of Columbia; and omits or sets aside for separate Senate vote provisions to defund Planned Parenthood and portions of Obamacare, and to block EPA global warming rules. The agreement voted on was negotiated by President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev). Reid declared the deal "historic."

Only in the annals of meaningless accomplishments. Although Fox News is pitching the deal as a big win for Rep. Boehner and House Republicans, it dissolves into an empty gesture when examined in light of surrounding circumstances. For example, Republicans had included language to deny federal money to put in place Obama's year-old health care law; the deal only requires such a proposal to be voted on by the Democratic-controlled Senate, where it is certain to fall short of the necessary 60 votes. More significantly, MSNBC reports that "Republicans were forced to accept billions of dollars in phantom savings, cutting money that probably wouldn't have been spent anyway."
Some $18 billion of the spending cuts involve cuts to so-called mandatory programs whose budgets run largely on autopilot. To the dismay of budget purists, these cuts often involve phantom savings allowed under the decidedly arcane rules of congressional budgeting. They include mopping up $2.5 billion in unused money from federal highway programs and $5 billion in fudged savings from capping payments from a Justice Department trust fund for crime victims.

Both ideas officially "score" as savings that could be used to pay for spending elsewhere in the day-to-day budgets of domestic agencies. But they have little impact, if any, on the deficit.
Still more telling is the simple, yet devastating, analysis by Andrew Riley of All-American Blogger, who notes a few important facts:
Federal Budget: $3,820,000,000,000.
Income: $2,170,000,000,000.
New Debt: $1,650,000,000,000.
Amount Cut: $38,500,000,000 – about 1% of the total budget.

It helps me to think about these numbers in terms that I can relate to. Let’s remove nine zeroes from those numbers and pretend this is a monthly household budget for the fictitious Jones family.

Total income for the Jones family this month: $2,170

Amount of money the Jones family spent this month: $3,820

Amount of new debt added to the credit card this month: $1,650

Outstanding balance on the credit card: $14,271 (This represents our national debt)

So last night, the Jones’ sat down at the kitchen table and agreed to cut $38 from their monthly budget. A historic amount.
A $38.5 billion reduction in budgeted federal spending might be the most ever in one fiscal year, in terms of number of dollars, and might have meant something back--not so many years ago--when the budget was several orders of magnitude lower than it is now. But after the successive binges of the Bush and Obama years, it's barely a teaspoon in the Pacific Ocean. That it took such a protracted and bitter political fight to yield such a paltry "savings" suggests that federal spending and total debt may now be impossible to arrest and beyond anyone's effective control, a raging cancer that will eat away at an ever-larger proportion of our nation's current and future wealth until there is none left for it to consume (for a breathtaking graphical depiction of the numbers involved and their explosive growth, see the U.S. National Debt Clock). Is America about to become an impoverished third-world country?

The budget deal's real significance, or lack of it, was summed up by two courageous Congresspersons who voted against it:

Michele Bachmann: “The deal is a disappointment for me and for millions of Americans who expected $100 billion in cuts. ... Instead, we’ve been asked to settle for $39 billion in cuts, even as we continue to fund Planned Parenthood and the implementation of ObamaCare. Sadly, we’re missing the mandate given us by voters last November."

Rand Paul: The CR "does not set us on a path to fixing the spending and debt problems our country is facing. There is not much of a difference between a $1.5 trillion deficit and a $1.6 trillion deficit—both will lead us to a debt crisis that we may not recover from."

The other colossal failure of this measure, as Rep. Bachmann noted, was removal of the rider that would have cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood (PP), the nation's largest single provider of abortion services and which, notes CNSNEWS' Terence P. Jeffrey, performed "332,278 abortions in 2009. That equals an average of 910 abortions per day—or about 38 per hour, or one every 95 seconds." The budget deal does provide for a symbolic vote in the Senate on a stand-alone bill that would specifically prohibit federal funding of Planned Parenthood, but shortly after the deal was sealed, both the New York Times and the Associated Press reported that this stand-alone defunding measure was certain to lose in the Democrat-dominated Senate. As Mr. Jeffrey points out:
Among the things the House Republican leadership gave up last night on the Planned Parenthood funding question is the leverage they might have had over opponents of the provision had they forced them to choose whether or not they were willing to shut down other government programs just to insure that the nation’s largest abortion provider continued to be funded by U.S. taxpayers.
It looks like they were prepared to do just that, and risk the ensuing political fallout. According to an AP story, "Democrats said they saw a radical agenda against women's health, especially poor and low-income women, and wouldn't allow it, even if it meant shutting down the government." Why weren't their feet held to that fire? It's clear where lie the priorities of Planned Parenthood's defenders--better to deny pay and funding for our troops and federal law enforcement personnel than to force the abortion industry and its supporters to pay their own way. The empty mantra that PP doesn't use federal tax money for abortions because it's against the law doesn't stand the most superficial examination: according to the AP story, PP "receives $363 million in federal funds, [and] . . . the organization's annual budget is $1.1 billion." So, about one-third of its budget is covered by federal tax money, yours and mine, even as it terminates over 300,000 pregnancies a year. It doesn't take a PhD from Barack Obama's alma mater to recognize that, directly or indirectly, federal funding keeps PP in the abortion business. Without it, that organization would have to rely on client fees and private donations. So why don't we make them do just that? I have absolutely no doubt that if he really wanted to, George Soros alone could fund every abortion performed by Planned Parenthood out of his own pocket, with plenty of cash left over to continue manipulating the world economy. Why don't we challenge him and his left-wing billionaire chums to do so? What moral law or political or financial necessity dictates that ordinary working men and women pay for the killing?

This country is clearly on a midnight train to moral and financial bankruptcy, and we needed much more than just the 2010 elections to find enough representatives with courage and common sense to derail it. Every citizen must work hard to identify and support, with time and money, political candidates who will make the hard choices in Washington. We must discuss the issues with our neighbors and encourage them to do the right thing--and be willing to so ourselves, even when it means risk and personal sacrifice. Ultimately, the battle won't be won or lost in Washington at all, but in our homes, workplaces, churches, and our own hearts and minds. If enough individuals work hard and long enough at it, we might be able to derail that train yet.


Anonymous said...

Your post makes more sense than all the talking-heads on TV combined! Well done! Maybe you should be put in charge of the federal budget! :)

JoJo said...

Exceptonal post! It really puts things into perspective when displayed as a "household budget".