Listening and watching C-Span this morning, Republican Senators were out in force this week spreading the gospel. Not the biblical gospel; the fiscal gospel. They reminded me of the moral degenerate who sees the train just a few feet from his stalled car on the tracks, and yells in prayer, "Lord, I repent, I am a good soul NOW!" After years of plundering the next generation's wages with spending and massive tax cuts for workers and wealthy today, the Republican politicians in control of the budgetary process for years now, are entering a new election cycle, and the voters are not happy. Suddenly, Republican politicians are professing to voters, "I repent, I am a good fiscal conservative, NOW! "
But, what is their plan? Rep. Mike Spence (R) suggests among other things, deferring the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit for one year, leaving millions of Americans who have planned on this law taking effect, in a lurch. Against a backdrop of Republican's Bankruptcy Reform, many aging Americans will no longer have a way out, should the deferral of the Rx drug plan and rising prices drive them into default on their modest debts against even more modest retirement income. In the name of holding down future taxes, Republicans want today's retirees to 1) go without needed medications, 2) file bankruptcy in their retirement years, or 3) just die and get off the entitlement rolls sooner than later.
Rep. Spence was a member of the Republican Study Committee which released a report in September (MS Word file) recommending ways to pay for Kartrina/Rita, now that ire over their fiscal irresponsibility is a factor in the 2006 elections. In the report the following cut recommendations appear:
Delay the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill for One year - 1 year savings 30.8 billion
Repeal the Highway Earmarks in TEA-LU (pork spending, its a tiny beginning) - 1 year savings 25 billion
Reduce Medicaid Administrative Spending - (fire workers and increase bureaucratic overload) 1 year savings 600 million
Increase Allowable Co-pays in Medicaid - 1 year savings 90 million
Block Grant Medicaid Acute Services - (eliminate emergency services funding) 1 year savings 2.3 billion
Reduce Farm Payment Acreage by 1% - (Wow! 31 million of 100's in corporate subsidies.). 1 year savings 31 million
Eliminate Subsidized Loans to Graduate Students - (let foreign students take the place of these brightest but poorest students) 1 year savings 840 million
Base New Federal Retiree Health on Length of Service - (cut retired gov't. employee's health care) 1 year savings 130 million
Increase Medicare Part B Premium from 25% to 30% - (raise the health care premiums for the poor and disabled) 1 year savings 4.65 billion
Restructure Medicare's Cost-Sharing Requirement - 1 year savings 4.75 billion
Impose a Home Health Co-payment of 10% - (raise the cost of health care for disabled) 1 year savings 1.47 billion
Update the Formula Used for Federal Pension - (cut federal pensioners benefits) 1 year savings 50 million
SUBTOTAL: Tough Options - 1 year savings 70.71 billion
All parenthetical explanations above are this authors. They call them tough options. Yep, they are tough. Tough on students, the elderly, retirees, the sick, injured, and disabled primarily. This is absurd in light of what is absent from their proposals, like restoring competitive bidding amongst pharmaceutical companies serving the Medicare program. This one measure alone would likely pay for at least 1/4 of the cost of Katrina/Rita aid. Also absent is NASA's 100 billion moon plan. Republicans are also overlooking responsibility for the 7 Billion per month cost of Iraq via "no-bid" contractors like Haliburton and 100's of millions of dollars absconded in that country. And all of it passed on to the next generation since the war monies are not included in the fiscal budgets, but are transferred directly to the national debt.
The House is now willing to follow through on at least some the President's call to remove 150 federal agencies and programs. Some of those programs are outdated and this is good. But, some cuts will come to the food stamp program at a time when poverty is on the rise. Some veteran's programs and other health care programs will also be on the chopping block. The motivation is due to the pressure of fiscal conservatives to pay for the Katrina/Rita rescue and rebuilding costs, rather than pass those costs on to the next generation. But, let's be clear, this sudden pang of conscience over spending is directly related to fears of incumbents not being reelected in 2006. Not any altruism about responsible government.
The cuts sound good to conservative fiscal hawks, but to this writer, it is impossible to forget the pork, waste, fraud, and abuse spending totaling over 650 billion dollars in 2004 alone according to Sen. Tom Coburn (R) on C-Span this morning. Spending which Republicans and Democrats alike had no moral problems passing on to the next generation when the voters were looking elsewhere. Where was this professing of fiscal responsibility over the last 5 years when the Republican controlled budgetary process put the national debt, according to Sen. Coburn, on track for 11 Trillion Dollars by the end of 2009, double what it was in 2000?
Where was Pres. Bush's veto threat these last 5 years while all this pork, waste, fraud, and abuse was taking place in omnibus bills designed specifically for laying on the pork? Pres. Bush's sudden rebuke of Congressional Spending is, let's be honest, all for show as the 2006 election cycle rev's up. As we move forward, some Republicans will move earnestly to cut spending, but in light of their lack of concern in previous years, such moves appear politically motivated for reelecting Republican incumbents.
This writer for one, won't buy a word of it. Some spending cuts will be made at the same time new tax cuts are issued forth, negating the spending cuts' effect on deficits and debt. If Republicans had any real concern about deficits and debt, they would not be sworn to making earlier economic stimulus tax cuts permanent. The economy needs no more stimuli in light of inflationary pressures. So logic dictates, it is political gain alone that motivates Republicans, not fiscal discipline. Were it otherwise, they would not be pushing to make permanent the 100's of billions of tax cuts for the wealthiest in America.
But, let's be clear. Democrats have the same penchant for spending as Republicans. The only difference has been in Republicans loading the backs of the next generation for their spending while Democrats would increase taxes, and turn right around, and spend the money with little net reduction in deficits and national debt. I have yet to hear a single Democrat call for balancing the budget and therefore end deficit spending. It is time for voters to hit these irresponsible politicians where they live. Vote in 2006, but, do not vote for any politician at the federal level who is already in office.
Just a 5% change in this direction by non-voters and previous voters, will send a resounding message to incoming freshman politicians. They have no career in politics unless they address America's needs. Secure borders, surplus revenues instead of deficit spending, quality education, and an end to corruption in government from no-bid contracts to campaign money extravaganzas and bribes by special interests are all issues of paramount importance to a majority of Americans. But current politicians won't take the public seriously, because they get reelected anyway. It is time to stop them cold in their tracks and put freshman on notice. They take our money, that means they work for us! They had damn well start taking their orders from us on these majority consensus issues. Vote anti-incumbent, and reject short-lived election eve conversions to responsibility and discipline.