12.09.2011 0

The Real False Choice

By Bill Wilson — Nightly Americans are bombarded with countless “news” stories of the fight in Congress over government spending and the latest crisis-filled battle over funding the government.  As the country drags itself toward the next so-called deadline of Dec. 16, the din is likely to grow much louder.

The storyline is now more than familiar.  The country is facing debt and deficits that threaten to explode, crippling the future of America for generations.  Everyone agrees the debt must be brought under control.  But that is where the agreement ends.

Democrats demand more revenue; a.k.a. taxes.  They insist that more money be taken from the productive sectors of the population to support the horde of government employees and the non-productive segments.  In short, Democrats insist the only way to address the $15 trillion debt is to punish a segment of the population.  Sadly, the Republicans are no better.

Throughout the earlier rounds of spending fights, the GOP has come to embrace the mantra that only entitlement reform needs to be considered when attacking the debt.  Now, are there areas of the main entitlement programs that should be reined in?  Of course.  And, is there a case to be made that healthcare costs are a primary driver of future deficits?  Yes.  But boil down the GOP argument and what do you have?  It is the same as the Democrats.  The GOP way of addressing the debt is to punish a segment of the population, just a different segment than the Democrats.

What neither the Democrats nor the Republicans discuss is making government itself bear the lion’s share of the impact of reduced spending.  In a federal budget that has doubled — yes, doubled — over the last ten years, neither party can seem to find a single thing government does that we can do without.

For the Democrats such talk is heresy.  For them, every penny spent or wasted on a government program is crucial to survival to the nation.  Whether bogus loans to crony insiders like Solyndra or insane research projects or duplicative social programs, nothing currently funded by taxpayers can be given up.  For the Republicans, the argument is actually weaker.  They claim that attacking government spending is “so small” that it won’t make a difference.  So why bother?  Just keep pouring taxpayers’ money down countless rat-holes and don’t worry about it.

This false choice — tax hikes or entitlement cuts — has the same victim in the crosshairs: the people.  Until or unless government is forced to take a hit, and a very big hit, nothing either party says has any credibility.

Fortunately there is a clear road map.  Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) released a plan over the summer that would, if enacted, cut $9 trillion from the deficit over ten years.  When the ill-conceived “Super Committee” was unable to find a mere $1 trillion, Senator Coburn found more than enough waste, inefficiency, duplication, and outright insanity to deal with America’s debt problem in one cut of the ax.

But, as you would imagine, neither party says much about Senator Coburn’s “Back in Black” proposal.  It would actually expose the false choice presented to us for the sham it is.  And, it would pull back the cloud of confusion that so many people work to maintain so that voters don’t see the real options we as a country have.

So while we all must suffer a final 2011 round of the False Choice, a good New Year’s resolution for all members of Congress for 2012 would be to drop the smoke and mirrors and start leveling with the American people.  If government won’t bear part of the burden for getting America’s fiscal house in order, why should any segment of the population?

Bill Wilson is the President of Americans for Limited Government. You can follow Bill on Twitter at @BillWilsonALG.

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