Opinion

Budget deficit — Oh, is that right?

JUST JACK

Everywhere a person turns today the financial story appears to be one of near insurmountable crisis and doom. Never have so many owed so much to so many without hope of repayment. Governments are on the brink of bankruptcy.

To which the time honored “Balderdash” is applicable. Yes, we have a number of financial institutions that, either by intent or outside pressure, became overextended and made bad business decisions. Those bad decisions were then compounded by a financial system that is little more than Las Vegas in a business suit, placing very high risk bets that failed to pay off. Finally, to add insult to injury, the same financial institutions cried wolf about how their failure would result in the financial collapse of the nation. In the end, you and I, the average person who actually pays taxes, along with our children and grandchildren, get to pay the bill. When did we ever empower any elected official to sell us down the river into financial ruin for the sake of some political agenda or to protect their political power? Our current fiscal problems are the direct result of an inept government attempting to exercise power that it was never granted over businesses and institutions that it does not understand. Ronald Reagan was right when he told us, “Government is not the solution; government is the problem.”

Closer to home, looking at Olympia, the story being told by the governor and her Legislature is one of desperation. We have to cut education funding and raise tuition, eliminate or severely cut care to the most vulnerable, reduce healthcare funding for children, reduce Medicaid payments to doctors, close parks, and who knows what else to even come close to balancing the budget. Did you know the proposed budget is larger than the previous budget? Of course, the only place the reductions in force will occur are those that have most immediate and direct impact on taxpayers. Nothing like telling citizens we can’t afford police with current revenues to generate support for a tax increase.

Does it bother anyone the same Legislature and governor’s office that can’t decide the math requirements to graduate from high school also are in charge of all fiscal matters of the state? Is there any possibility that allowing an “outside” expert (try State Auditor Brian Sontag) to take a look at how we are doing business to try and find some savings? While there is always talk of putting “sunset” clauses in legislation, is anyone responsible to monitor laws that have been passed to determine if they actually work? Is it possible we could solve some of our problems regarding economic development and environment if we simply rescinded some of our ineffective and regressive laws? Do we really need to move the Economic Development Commission from CTED to the governor’s office so it will be more effective? Perhaps the better question is should we continue to pay for an EDC that does not produce results? Is there any possibility that, by reducing the number of areas that government has strayed into without reason or authority, we also might realize a substantive reduction in the size and cost of government?

Finally, if you wonder why we may have some problems dealing with our government, perhaps the answer is the education we do not receive. A bill currently in the Legislature would add civics to high school graduation requirements if the Board of Education decides to add additional credit requirements. Even if the “recommended” course is added, there is little hope actual knowledge would be improved. The recommended contents for the course leave little doubt as to the level of civics expertise shared by many of our current elected representatives. It would appear that before we attempt to educate our children we should first educate those who would purport to represent us. I do not anticipate there will be a law setting civics educational standards for candidates in the near future. We could not even get them to approve a law that would make it illegal to tell outright lies in campaign literature.

Jack Hamilton can be reached at gradiver@wavecable.com.

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