Kicking the Can and the Texas Model

Bill Neinast

Zero!  Zilch!  Nada!  That is the total of the new law to keep the federal government running for a bit.

Actually, that is not exactly true.  The 35 page bill (My copy of the Constitution and its amendments is only 18 pages.) is encumbered with ear marks from Republicans and class warriors obligating new spending from the overdrawn budget.

The three new budget busters most often discussed total about $3.5 billion. For Washington, that is a piddling amount or “chump change.”    For economists and accountants interested in a $17 trillion debt, however, even $1 billion is of concern.

Of most concern is the ear mark of Kentucky
Republican Senator Mitch McConnell and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin that raises the cost of a project from $775 million to $2.9 billion.  This is the largest of the gimmes.  Instead of stopping the bleeding in these proceedings to raise the borrowing limit, they are stuffing blood thinner into the system.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s defense of the big ear mark only aggravates the fiasco.  He says that the actions of McConnell and Durban will save $80 million.  That would be the cost of defaulting on contracts for a project approved in 1988 at an initial cost of $775 million.

With budget calculations like that, is there any hope?

Other earmarks drawing the ire of some is a $174,000 death gratuity (a year’s salary) for the widow of Senator Frank Lautenberg, one of the 50 richest members of Congress, and $450 million for flood relief in the Rocky Mountains.

The third provision of this law to reopen the government is as ludicrous as those ear marks.  This directs the IRS to insure that anyone granted a subsidy for buying health insurance is qualified.  Duh!  Does this mean that when Congress authorizes a give away there is no requirement to verify the recipients’ qualifications.  Will the IRS process these requests for subsidy as efficiently as they do the applications of non profits for tax free status or the VA’s efficiency in processing veterans’ request for disability?

Finally, this temporary fix of reopening the government did not even kick the can down the road.  The can was left in exactly the last place it was played.  Congress just backed up the road a bit.

From there, they will go home to help the kids eat candy corn and other goodies in their Halloween gimme bags, just like they do with their gimme bags in the halls of Congress.  Maybe back to D.C. for a few days, but then back home to carve up Thanksgiving turkeys, just like they do from their congressional desks.
What?  It’s already Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza.
Members of Congress cannot be expected to be away from home on those holidays.  Then,  why trudge back to the center of government after those celebrations when the crystal ball will soon be falling at Times Square to ring in the new year of 2014.
All of the relaxing, eating, drinking, and playing during those celebrations and observances for 90 days will have an unbelievable effect on the men and women controlling our government.  They will meet over coffee and say, “Let’s quit kicking the can.  Let’s pick up the can and fix it so that it will again hold us together.”

Every one there nods his or her head in agreement.  Then one says to those on the other side of the table, “This can, can be mended only if you will compromise your position just a little bit.”  The spokesperson for the other side responds, “We cannot do that, our constituents would not like it.  If you want to fix the can, you will have to compromise a bit.”

So here we go again in January sitting around a bomb with a very short fuse.

This, of course, is nothing to fret about. The law just signed by the President has already taken care of the problem.  Remember that super committee to be formed of Congressmen and Senators from both parties.  They certainly will forge all the compromises needed that will find willing support from every elected official in D.C.

So here’s the perspective.

These games may be a harbinger of a way for individuals to save some money.  In January, a subscription for newspapers or other news media will not be necessary.  The news from Washington during the first part of the new year will be a mere repeat or rehash of what was seen during the last few months.

There is a possibility, however, that different perspectives may break through.  Those perspectives could come from unexpected sources like Time magazine.

The current issue of that magazine is such a surprise.  The cover is a colorful map of Texas with a leading headline of  “The United States of Texas--Why The Lone Star State is America’s Future.”

That article chronicles the Texas spirit of independence and the belief in small government.   It discusses the reasons why Texas is one of the fastest growing states with an unemployment rate below the national average.

Unfortunately, the article does not go far enough.  There is no discussion of the state’s law that limits legislative sessions to five months every two years.  During the remaining 19 months of the biennium, the legislators are back home living with their constituents under the laws they have crafted.


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