Washington's budget showdown

Excuse me, but there is so much posturing and politicking going on in all these press conferences by both parties on America’s budget crisis and the looming government shutdown, it’s hard to know who to believe or what to think.

I’m loaded with links. Starting with my hometown paper, President Obama’s hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune. The lead editorial:

Tuesday brought a welcome blast of truth-telling among the grown-ups on Capitol Hill. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., unveiled a politically risky proposal to curb federal deficits and pay down the national debt. As he and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, correctly stated, America has a moral obligation to stop spending like there’s no tomorrow.

The Trib has been on a rampage for a while now to call government, state and federal, to accountability. Good.

Has Ryan got all the answers? No, but his plan sure beats doing nothing. And nothing is mostly what we’ve heard from Democrats evidently more concerned about winning next year’s presidential and congressional election than leveling with Americans about the perils of a federal debt north of $14 trillion.

Remember how (not that long ago) we couldn’t get our minds around a ‘billion’?

Now here’s where it gets more personally urgent. Let’s put it this way….Minnesota is known as ‘the state of hockey’. The Trib editors ran a series in the last election dubbing this ‘the state of corruption.’ In one of my calls to a healthcare giver for my Father in Massachusetts, I got into a chatty conversation with the lady who answered, and she remarked “the only time Chicago is in the news it’s either for weather or corruption.” All too true…

So, back to the Trib, and their worries that under this seemingly good plan of Ryan’s, the states would have to take more control over Medicaid and Medicare.

Like any thinking resident of this state, we’re worried that Illinois would botch its responsibilities, but that’s no reason to reject Ryan’s plan out of hand. We can’t afford the plan we’ve got. We need free-market checks and balances, and think-big ideas for saving a program that has grown to serve one in five Illinoisans.


If not the Ryan plan, Democrats, then what?

It was a shame to hear influential lawmakers such as Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi attack Ryan practically before he had finished talking. As Ryan acknowledged Tuesday, his “Path to Prosperity” hands a potent weapon to his political opponents, who may indeed follow the usual playbook by fanning the fears of seniors, and demonizing the GOP as the enemy of America’s most vulnerable citizens.

Depressingly, public opinion polls show that most Americans want Congress to cut the federal deficit without cutting entitlements. That isn’t feasible: In round numbers, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security totaled $1.5 trillion in a fiscal 2010 federal budget of $3.5 trillion.

Unchecked, our current entitlement system will destroy our fiscal future. Other developed countries — including several in Europe that now are choking on their own vast public debts — have launched austerity programs. America instead has boosted spending. It can’t go on like this, and Ryan’s proposal includes a sobering account titled, “How a Debt Crisis Would Unfold.”

Trust us: It ends badly.

Ryan is warning us about perils that stretch from economics to psychology: The sense of victimization among citizens who object to reforming unaffordable entitlements…

What is best for the nation and its citizens?

Here’s a citizen expressing what may be a startling viewpoint (or not):

What if the U.S. government shut down and no one noticed?

Even worse (or better, depending on one’s point of view), what if all federal workers went on furlough and the public realized there were benefits, not just costs, to smaller government?

There’s a radical thought.

President Barack Obama says a shutdown would devastate the economy at a time when job growth is struggling to reach a cruising altitude. What’s more, it would further reduce confidence in government.

Guess what? It can’t go much lower. The approval rating for Congress dropped to 18 percent last month, near the lowest in the Gallup poll’s 37-year history of tracking the trend.

Out of the couple of dozen other links I’ve saved, this article dares to say what many Americans are thinking.

No lawmakers means no new laws, regulations, targeted tax breaks, exemptions or loopholes. Members of Congress would have much-needed time to read the health-care bill they passed last year, holding then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to her word when she said: “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it.”

So, then. Swing for the fences.

A government shutdown would give family-values Republicans more time to spend with spouses and children (preferably their own). Democrats favoring income redistribution (yours, not theirs) could use the time to consult with their accountants so they can take advantage of the loopholes they write into the tax code. Members of both parties would have more time for fundraising.

Too-big-to-fail banks would get a taste of what it’s like to swim without a life preserver should a crisis strike while the government is shuttered.

Media companies should see improved profits as paid advertisements replace the endless obligatory coverage of the president and Congress bloviating.

Finally, a shutdown would produce such an outcry and warnings of dire consequences from the media, activists and politicians, it might just get open-minded folks to reflect on how the government got so big and why it’s so intertwined in our lives.

This is an evolving news story. Stay tuned….


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