The Fort Report
This week's show will feature developer Bill Bean and City Councilman Tom Smith, who will discuss the $71 million office, housing and retail project planned for downtown Fort Wayne and related issues. The episode will premiere at 5:30 p.m. Saturday on Comcast Channel 57 and FiOS Channel 27 and later at www.news-sentinel.com.
Washington, D.C., is starting to remind me of the “Bizarro World” that occasionally appeared in the Superman comics I read as a kid. Supposedly a mirror-image of reality, Bizarros looked strange and spoke an indecipherable dialect in which up was down, black was white, bad was good . . .
And, apparently, amassing even more debt you can never hope to repay represents financial responsibility -- and living within your means dangerous extremism.
I have almost as little faith in most congressional Republicans as I have in the Democrats. Republicans seemed far less concerned about the ballooning federal debt when their party held the White House, just as some Democrats – including President Obama – opposed an increase in the nation's debt limit when they could use the issue to criticize Republican profligacy. There's plenty of hypocrisy to go around.
But with the debt ceiling of $16.7 billion approaching in a week or so, Republican demands to link an increase in the limit to spending cuts are generating the usual warnings of a potentially catastrophic federal default.
“This is the stuff of absurdist theater,” concluded the Bloomberg business and financial news organization, hardly a source of left-wing propaganda. If the U.S. cannot pay its debts, it added, “Global markets will see the government as grossly and dangerously incompetent.”
In other words, America will be seen as competent only if it increases the limit on the credit card that should have been cut up long ago.
As a political matter, it is always far more dangerous to promote lower spending than it is to support unlimited spending. One inevitably creates enemies, while the other breeds friends – and dependency. But the Republicans exacerbated that difficulty by at first linking budget talks to the defending and, later, the delayed implementation of Obamacare. As flawed as Obamacare may be, they never had the votes to seriously challenge the law, and the resulting shutdown has allowed the Obama administration to exaggerate the pain the shutdown has inflicted.
As one National Park Service ranger in Washington, D.C., said, “We've been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It's disgusting.”
Yes, it is – but it also explains why the government attempted to bar veterans from the World War II monument in Washington, visitors from the Grand Canyon and allegedly denying mass to Catholics at federal institutions while cooperating with a Democrat-friendly rally in support of immigration "reform" on the supposedly closed national mall.
But as even Bloomberg noted, the federal treasury borrows “only” $1 of every $5 it spends – meaning it still has plenty of money to pay the debt if it chooses to reduce and prioritize spending. And even though Bloomberg warns that a massive spending cut might further weaken an already tenuous economy, surely it is not extreme to suggest cuts are not only possible but necessary, despite former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's recent rant to the contrary.
Just last week, for example, CBS' “60 Minutes” – another media outlet not known for its conservative bent – reported that the Federal Disability Insurance Program, which began in the 1950s to assist only those people who could not work because of illness or injury, now has an annual budget of $135 billion and 12 million recipients. That's up 20 percent in the past six years.
Is some of the increase due to an aging population? Perhaps. But Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who is also a doctor, said a study by his staff indicates nearly half of all approved claims are questionable. I have talked to a local doctor who has performed pre-disability physicals who is even more skeptical.
There is, clearly, plenty to cut. And with about 4,000 federal jobs still be advertised as being available, it is equally clear that the government is not as financially hamstrung as the president and his allies would like the public to believe.
The sane path would be for Democrats to agree to real spending cuts, especially in out-of-control and unsustainable entitlement programs, and for Republicans to agree to modest revenue increases, through the reform of the tax code preferably but through modest rate increases on the “rich” if necessary.
Instead, there is no compromise on the horizon even though the national debt has increased by $2.5 billion over the last two years alone, while the gross
domestic product – which indicates the ability to repay that debt – has gone up by just $1.19 billion.
Meanwhile, the president's nominee to head the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, seems ready to continue to prop up the economy by printing ever larger amounts of cash. Wall Street can breathe easy.
In the Bizarro World.