It’s financial crunch time again in Washington as our elected representatives either pass another continuing resolution by March 27th, or they submit a budget approved by both Houses of Congress. Probably a safe bet that there will be another continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown. But the same congress is also trying to address the hardships of the $85 billion that sequestration will take out of the economy. Today’s newspapers (Wednesday, March 20, 2013) reported that both sides are trying to restore spending in places that serve their interests, but cutting deeper in other places in order to comply with the $85 billion figure. It’s a simple zero sum game with some winners and some losers. The irony is how hard the Republicans are fighting to protect their interests despite all the proclamations of the past that all federal spending has been too high, that there is too much waste and fat in all departments, and that all agencies could take a hit of at least ten percent or more. (Again, I leave Democrats out of this discussion because they are known by the reactionaries as the tax and spend party.)
One of the Republican arguments has always been that government should be run like a business. I don’t buy into that line of thinking for a lot of reasons, but it’s still a fair argument that we should debate. There are several ongoing opportunities for these proponents to support their business model. But brace yourself, dear reader, for the big surprise when you learn that it’s more convenient to mouth a grand idea than put your political career on the line and actually vote like a statesman. Example one is the U.S. Postal Service. They are going broke for the reasons we all know. The Postal Service has proposed ending Saturday mail delivery and closing a lot of post offices that serve only a handful of people at a cost disproportionate to the number of people in the area. But there is some serious pushback going on, and any number of Republicans (and Democrats) are resisting the cost cutting measures that the Postal Service insists it needs to balance its budget. My bet as of this writing is that Saturday mail delivery will continue, and that the number of proposed post office closings will be substantially reduced from the list. So much for supporting a business model for a failing concern.
Then there are the military bases. It was reported this week that the congress will almost certainly not vote to create another BRAC (Base Realignment and Closing) committee to review the long list of bases that the various branches want to close. Sequestration has brought out a lot of flag waving, about how the president is hollowing out the military, that we won’t be prepared for the next big mission, etc. As I’ve written before in my commentaries, the money from cutting antiquated bases, military social spending, excessive travel, and extravagant treatment of flag rank officers, could be used to enhance the fighting capabilities of the uniformed services. The reality, though, is that bases and unneeded weapons systems are nothing more than jobs programs that our elected representatives support in return for votes. It has always amazed me to hear some bloviating congressman or senator talk about the need for a base or weapon made in their state or district that the experts in the Pentagon oppose as unnecessary. In this awful economy the pain has to be felt everywhere, and protecting special interests under the guise of the flag is wrong. If these reps will admit that what they want to defend is government job programs, the voters could decide if that honesty deserves sending them back to congress.
Another example of Republican hypocrisy is the number of special tax breaks or tariffs that are given to special interests. Free market advocacy makes for great campaign speeches, but in reality the Republicans no more believe in free markets than communists. It’s a matter of degree. These special interest groups don’t want to compete; they want the government to help them eliminate their competitors or get an edge over their competition. And tax breaks and tariffs are the way to do it. Note the flag waving that is used to defend the breaks the favored get. But I’ll bet that many remember that American cars only improved once the Japanese were able to produce a quality product that our native manufacturers could no longer keep out. Funny how that works.