Are Americans Asleep?

by Ed Mattson

 

2012 is almost ready for the scrap heap of history. 2013 is just around the corner. Will America wake up or will it continue down the road to LaLa land? Will America stand up and take care of those who fight to keep it free, or will it succumb to the temptation to lavish benefits on those who just won’t take care of themselves in exchange for the votes to keep themselves in power?

If we step back and look around, anyone with a modicum of common sense would have to see things just aren’t right in the land of the free and home of the brave. The once greatest economic power in the world that defeated the communist Soviet Union in the Cold War, not by guns and bombs, but by overwhelming economic production and freedom, is now on the pathway to extinction as the world leader.

What triggered this article was an email I received over Christmas from a friend and mentor who came up with a great analogy that demonstrates the economic situation in the United States by comparing The Administration’s view of the country’s financial situation to his family budget in figures most logically thinking Americans will understand.

In April 2009 President Obama ordered the cabinet to cut $100,000,000.00 ($100 million) from the $3,500,000,000,000.00 ($3.5 trillion) federal budget over a 90-days period, as an intended signal of the president’s determination to cut spending and reform government.

I was so impressed by his sacrifice that I have decided to do the same thing with my personal budget…

I spend about $2,000 a month on groceries, household expenses, medicine, utilities, etc., but it’s time to get out the ‘ol budget cutting axe, go through my expenses, and cut back. I’m going to cut spending of my total budget at exactly the same ratio that the Federal Government is planning – 1/35,000, to show I too, can share in the suffering the rest of the nation will undergo in the process.  

After doing the math, it looks like instead of spending $2,000 a month, I’m going to have to cut that number by six cents. Yes, I’m going to have to get by with only $1999.94, but hey, that’s what sacrifice is all about. Like other Americans I’ll just have to do without some things, that are frankly, luxuries – six cents worth.

When Congress and the President talk about cutting the budget, it’s all smoke and mirrors if you understand the concept of base-line budgeting, and if we all understood the concept, we would have already gotten out a rope and found a tall tree somewhere on Capitol Hill.

“Baseline budgeting” is one of those Washington terms that sounds very dry and boring. In reality, baseline budgeting is one of the most sinister ways that politicians claim to cut spending when they are actually increasing spending. The Congressional Budget Office defines the baseline as the current budgetary policies or current services are continued without change. The baseline includes automatic adjustments for inflation and anticipated increases in program participation. Baseline budgeting (f or current services), therefore builds automatic, future spending increases into Congress’s budgetary forecasts.

Baseline budgeting tilts the budget process in favor of increased spending and taxes. For example, if an agency’s budget is projected to grow by $100 million, but only grows by $75 million, according to baseline budgeting, that agency sustained a $25 million cut. That is analogous to a person who expects to gain 100 pounds only gaining 75 pounds, and taking credit for losing 25 pounds. The federal government is the only place this absurd logic is employed.

Perhaps if the country had and education system in place that would teach how this concept is destroying the country, then maybe, just maybe, we would see some heads roll inside the Beltway.  From the mighty pulpit of the Rose Garden at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue where President Obama speaks eloquently to a subservient press corps and the mind-numb voters waiting breathlessly on every syllable; and from the mighty pulpit of the Congressional Chambers where rhetoric more often than substance, seems to flow like sewage to a city reclamation processing facility, we soak it all up faster than Sham Wow mops up a spill.

With the federal government spending at a rate of more than $4 billion/day (The federal government borrowed 46 cents of every dollar it has spent so far this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, according to the latest data the Congressional Budget Office released Friday), the numbers are so large, people become ambivalent to the financial calamity that awaits us in the near future. Looking it at from a different prospective…That tax revenue is up by $30 billion compared with last year, or about 10 percent, but spending is up even more — a staggering $87 billion, or 14 percent.

“A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money.” — the late Senator Everett M. Dirksen

America is broken. Don’t believe me? Look at the facts and then you decide:

We just had an election where in we re-elected 85% of the Congressional and Senate representatives. The figures would have been if more astonishing had it not been for re-districting. The estimated number who would have been re-elected was thought to be closer to 90%, according to Bloomberg.  Imagine how unlikely these numbers are when Congress has only an 18% approval rating according to Gallup. We have certainly crossed the gap into the land of insanity, but then again, who would have thought the majority of the people would have voted for four more year of economic pain and 20+ million people out of work?

According a report from State Budget Solutions, the state of California is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy staring at $617 billion dollars in debt. The state’s debt burden comes out to roughly $16,400 per California resident. Most of the outstanding debt is related to unfunded pension liabilities. The report also looked at the fiscal year 2013 budget gap, unemployment trust fund loans and unfunded retiree health benefits. As an example of the waste the taxpayers of California have endured with no end in sight, is…

California Highway Patrol division chief Jeff Talbott retired last year as the best-paid officer in the 12 most-populous U.S. states, collecting $483,581 in salary, pension and other compensation. Talbott, age 53, received $280,259 for accrued leave and vacation time and took a new job running the public-safety department at a private university in Southern California. He also began collecting an annual pension of $174,888 from the state.

Union-negotiated benefits, coupled with overtime that can exceed regular pay and lax enforcement of limits on accumulating unused vacation, allow some troopers to double their annual earnings and retire as young as age 50. The payments they get are unmatched by those elsewhere, according to data compiled by Bloomberg on 1.4 million employees of the 12 states. Some, like Talbott, go on to second careers.

The chaos doesn’t just end with public-sector, union-negotiated wage and benefit packages our legislators so easily agree to currying favor with and securing the vote of Big Labor, we also see a never-ending cycle of waste and lack of oversight. According to the San Diego Union Times: More than 200 state employees were overpaid more than $500,000 by managers who deliberately broke state rules at the troubled California Department of Parks and Recreation, according to a report by the state controller.

The report is the latest blow to a department where employees were found last summer to have kept $54 million hidden in two special funds for more than a decade, even as dozens of parks faced closure. Results from additional investigations by the Department of Finance and state attorney general are expected in coming weeks.

The controller’s office found that managers broke rules and regulations to pay 203 employees about $520,000 in extra pay over three years. Several dozen other employees were also overpaid more than $63,000 because they worked more hours or in higher-paying positions than allowed.

Speaking of taxpayer money and a federal Santa Claus government waiting breathlessly to give taxpayer money away to countries, many of which do not like the US and in fact vote against us at every opportunity in the forum of the United Nations:

FY2010 Top 5 Recipients by Region of U.S. Economic Assistance (in millions)

 

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