Master the balancing act

Taming the federal budget will require courage and sacrifice

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A group of area citizens converged at Augusta State University recently to balance the federal budget.

Over lunch.

The news is not good.

Given the opportunity to cut as much as they could out of a projected $13.6 trillion federal deficit over the next 10 years, five groups of about five citizens each fell far short: The best that one group could manage was $7.18 trillion. Several groups cut as little as $2 trillion.

And that was after deciding to raise taxes to levels that, in the real world, would be 1) very unlikely to pass Congress and 2) very likely crippling to the economy.

If an amalgam of level-headed citizens from the Garden City can't balance the budget, how can we hope our elected officials will -- given the political barriers and siren song of spending in Washington?

Indeed, the budget-cutting exercise at Augusta State March 21 -- designed and directed by the nonpartisan Concord Coalition and hosted by Congressman John Barrow, D-Ga. -- was intended to illustrate just how difficult it will be to get this nation's finances in order.

Judging from what we saw -- The Chronicle's editorial department participated -- we can tell you with some authority how hard it will be.

But guess what: Financially, practically and morally, we have no choice.

We appreciate what the Concord Coalition has done with these budget-cutting exercises, which the balanced-budget think tank stages across the country. And we applaud Congressman Barrow and his staff for bringing it to ASU. Everyone who participated left inspired and enlightened.

We do wish the exercise gave participants more than two hours -- and more flexibility. Trillion-dollar decisions were made by the participants sometimes in seconds, and there was no option of lopping off entire departments of the government.

Nor was there the time or template for a philosophical discussion on exactly what it is the federal government should even be doing. We believe any wholesale assessment of today's federal budget leviathan should start with the Constitution itself. It delineates, in more detail than most folks realize, what the government should and should not do.

On the latter, for instance, the 10th Amendment says, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Intuitively, you know right there that today's federal government is doing way more than ever intended.

Besides the short laundry list of items it delegates to Congress, we think the Constitution also contains, in its preamble, a beautiful blueprint for thinking about what the federal government should do: "establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence ..."

(Unfortunately, it also says "promote the general Welfare" -- which has been used as justification for Congress to do whatever it wants to, notwithstanding the specific list of what it's allowed to do and the 10th Amendment admonition that everything else is reserved for the states or the people to do.)

The point is, the budget-cutting exercise demonstrates quite clearly that we won't be able to balance the books unless we're willing to completely rethink what we depend on the government for -- and accept the painful consequences.

For example, in the small group The Chronicle was in, the members wouldn't even consider cutting funding for the arts. Folks, when we're already $14 trillion in debt and are projected to add another $13.6 trillion over the next 10 years, such luxuries are going to have to be the first things we cut.

About all that debt: Our other lament about the budget-cutting exercise is that it was never explicitly explained just how immoral it is to cut just $2 trillion or even $7 trillion out of a $13.6 trillion deficit. We do wish the group had been told -- beforehand would've been nice -- that the $27.6 trillion in federal debt 10 years from now will be left on the doorstep of future generations.

There were some wide-eyed ASU students in the room who needed to hear that.

But meanwhile, students in Wisconsin and Georgia and elsewhere have massed at their state capitols to decry modest state budget cuts. Somebody needs to show them what the books look like in a few years!

Finally, some of their peers are trying: This week, a group called Young Americans for Liberty plans to erect 40-foot-long "National Debt Clocks" on some 75 college campuses across the nation.

"We want fellow students to know just how big our generation's share of debt is, and that Congress is spending away our future," Ani DeGroot, Young Americans for Liberty chapter president at the University of Iowa, said in a statement. "Students stress about paying back their college loans, but they don't realize their portion of the national debt is even bigger."

Yes, it will be hard to balance the budget. But we ask: Are we to believe that the country that won two world wars -- three if you count the Cold War -- can't muster the courage to stop spending their children's money in 10 years' time?

Come on.

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Fundamental_Arminian
1871
Points
Fundamental_Arminian 03/28/11 - 04:01 am
0
0
Since our budget can't be

Since our budget can't be balanced, shouldn't our nation's bond rating be downgraded to "F"?

corgimom
38229
Points
corgimom 03/28/11 - 05:32 am
0
0
How about the luxury of

How about the luxury of powerboat races and riding jet skis up the Savannah River?

NO MONEY means no money. Lots of things are going to be cut, everyone is going to be affected, and people are just going to have to cope. There aren't any other choices anymore.

The good times are over, and there has to be a fundamental shift in people's thinking.

Techfan
6462
Points
Techfan 03/28/11 - 05:57 am
0
0
"Young Americans for

"Young Americans for Liberty", another Koch funded front group. How about they pay full price for the timber they cut on US lands, pay for the logging roads, give up their ethanol subsidies, pay full price of the land they confiscate via eminent domain for their pipelines, pay full price for the 200,000 acres of federal land they use for grazing. That should knock out about 1/2 a billion or more right there.

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 03/28/11 - 06:44 am
0
0
This number of 14 trillion

This number of 14 trillion represents the national DEBT, not deficit. The two words are not interchangeable. Deficit refers to the difference between a budget and collections in a year. Debt represents how much has been borrowed from institutions, other governments, and citizens that consider the US a good risk.

Riverman1
93232
Points
Riverman1 03/28/11 - 07:01 am
0
0
Notice the liberals downplay

Notice the liberals downplay the debt. This is an issue where the conservatives are recognized as being leaders. Republicans are openly saying they are going to cut social security and Medicare. Cut those two items greatly and you can eliminate the debt. Let's see how the voters respond.

Riverman1
93232
Points
Riverman1 03/28/11 - 07:03 am
0
0
Corgimom, you are still out

Corgimom, you are still out to lunch on this spending money on the Lock and Dam. The feds are the ones who want to spend more money building a fish lift. Most in Augusta, just want it closed to keep the backpool permanently. At the most we would have to drop some concrete blocks to make it sturdy for a hundred years.

Techfan
6462
Points
Techfan 03/28/11 - 07:10 am
0
0
"Deficits don't matter."

"Deficits don't matter."

Beck Tears
0
Points
Beck Tears 03/28/11 - 07:18 am
0
0
Yeah- when people don't know

Yeah- when people don't know the difference between debt and deficit- they shouldn't be allowed to comment or post. Worthless article is worthless.

iakovos
0
Points
iakovos 03/28/11 - 07:55 am
0
0
Everybody has to be punish

Everybody has to be punish and i mean everybody we all must pay.Cut it Cut it now while there's still time to save the Nation.

Beck Tears
0
Points
Beck Tears 03/28/11 - 08:07 am
0
0
"And still not one mention of

"And still not one mention of the sacred cow, DEFENSE!"

Maybe not in this article- but in others you can read how upset people are about the military being used in parts of the world by President Obama because of how costly it is.

dani
13
Points
dani 03/28/11 - 08:14 am
0
0
The cost of missiles being

The cost of missiles being fired in Libya is more than Congress can ever hope to offset by cutting programs.
Those guys in office don't play around, they spend fast and they spend big.

dani
13
Points
dani 03/28/11 - 08:19 am
0
0
If you owe more than you can

If you owe more than you can pay you have a deficit but you also have too much debt.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 03/28/11 - 09:07 am
0
0
Many of our govt programs

Many of our govt programs started with good intentions. The Dept of Education was supposed to help children & improve education. Welfare was supposed to help those temporarily in need. The EPA was supposed to help keep us from polluting ourselves to death. There are thousands more examples but you get the picture.

The problem is that the good intentions have been replaced by power hungry bureaucrats & politicians who have bloated these programs beyond recognition & they want to keep them going no matter what it takes. The Government has gone Wild. Many people have built their entire firm or career around these govt depts existing.

The Federal Govt should NEVER have been allowed to gain this much power and get to this size. Now that we are forced to make cuts it will be very, very difficult and there will be a lot of unhappy people and some temporary misery.

Too bad. It must be done.

Restore the federal govt to it's primary purpose. Military/Defense, infrastructure development and enforcing laws that keep us from hurting each other. Congress should work part time - just a few weeks a year. They have far too much idle time on their hands to try & figure out how to spend OUR money.

The states can pick up the federally cut programs they deem important. States like CA, NY, IL can regulate and tax their citizens to death. States like TX, MT & ID can allow the free market to reign and it's citizens to be free.

Beck Tears
0
Points
Beck Tears 03/28/11 - 09:26 am
0
0
I'm going to pick out the EPA

I'm going to pick out the EPA specifically in your post.

The point of the EPA is to prevent a company from dumping waste and destroying the environment- which is a good thing for everyone, including those whose livelihoods rely on it. For instance Chillen is a modest fisherman of the river, and Beck Tears is a big company that likes to dump toxins into the river, which destroys, disrupts and kills everything. In a free market with no regulations- obviously Chillen would suffer and lose his business, all the while more harm will be caused by Beck Tears company. Having an EPA though prevents that.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 03/28/11 - 09:42 am
0
0
beck tears. The issue in

beck tears. The issue in your post would be taken care of by the legal system - what I posted - "enforcing laws that keep us from hurting each other". If you are intentionally destroying my business, I'd sue you.

It's easy to come up with a reason to save each & every program. But that won't help our budget one single bit. That won't remove power from the power hungry drunks in DC.

Next.

Riverman1
93232
Points
Riverman1 03/28/11 - 09:36 am
0
0
Beck Tears, here's how I look

Beck Tears, here's how I look at things like the EPA. If we all know it's illegal to dump toxins in the river and someone knows a company is doing it, he calls law enforcement. I believe most companies will stay within the laws in the amount of discharges they have and so on. We don't need a huge department with who knows how many employees.

Riverman1
93232
Points
Riverman1 03/28/11 - 09:39 am
0
0
Again social security and

Again social security and medicare are the culprits by far. Start gradually cutting them now.

As far as national defense we can do that differently, too. No ground forces or deployments. You do something that harms our citizens and you lose a city or two. You will get the message in a hurry and make those responsible behave.

justthefacts
24891
Points
justthefacts 03/28/11 - 09:55 am
0
0
The problem? "McDuffie County

The problem? "McDuffie County getting new I-20 interchange". Really not that hard to see the problem.

Techfan
6462
Points
Techfan 03/28/11 - 09:57 am
0
0
http://www.sourcewatch.org/in

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Koch_Industries
You dump illegally or don't maintain your pipelines. You get charged with numerous counts in the court system, then the politicians you bought get elected, drop most of the charges, then settle for a fraction of the potential fines and you walk with a slap on the wrist.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 03/28/11 - 10:01 am
0
0
No system is perfect techfan.

No system is perfect techfan. Courts fail us from time to time but mostly they punish those who harm us or break the law.

My proposed govt system is far superior to what we have now. At least America will survive under my plan. Under the current plan we are facing economic collapse - very, very soon.

You choose.

Techfan
6462
Points
Techfan 03/28/11 - 10:10 am
0
0
Also, often the fines are

Also, often the fines are cheaper than fixing the problem, so dump away.
http://scorecard.goodguide.com/env-releases/ranking.tcl?tri_id=30913FDRL...

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 03/28/11 - 10:15 am
0
0
As long as we are throwing

As long as we are throwing out details. EPA annual budget $11 BILLION. 17,500 employees. Countless billions spent on lobbying, ridiculous regulations and bribing.

Cuts must be made. They will be difficult. If you don't like them you can always protest like the mature adults in London.

Riverman1
93232
Points
Riverman1 03/28/11 - 10:20 am
0
0
TechFan, that's kind of a

TechFan, that's kind of a black helicopter approach that corporations are manipulating and trying to destroy the environment. I'm sure some do wrong, but those are rare. Bring legal action when they do. We don't need 17,500 people telling corporations what to do about the environment.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 03/28/11 - 10:39 am
0
0
Here's something I just read

Here's something I just read from Neal Boortz. Boy is this the truth. And fits so appropriately right here.

"Here's something else you won't hear. A private citizen, saying: "it is time for our family to stand on our own two, four, six or eight feet. We have to stop using the govt as an instrument of plunder. If there's something we can't afford, we shouldn't expect the govt to take some money away from somebody else by force to give us the money we need to buy it." ----- Nope, sorry. I'm very afraid that class of citizen just doesn't exist in this country anymore. We are a country of govt dependency. We don't look to the govt as an entity that is supposed to protect us and our property from others who would use force or fraud to harm us or steal from us. We look to the govt as an entity that is designed to plug the gaps left by our responsibility and lack of a work ethic. For many of us, especially young people, the govt has become a replacement for mommy and daddy. It's long past time to cut the apron strings again, but I'm afraid that, except for a few, the willingness just isn't there."

This is deadly accurate.

Beck Tears
0
Points
Beck Tears 03/28/11 - 11:37 am
0
0
"We don't look to the govt as

"We don't look to the govt as an entity that is supposed to protect us and our property from others who would use force or fraud to harm us or steal from us."

I don't know what kind of company you keep- but this is exactly the role people want government for. It's part of regulations. Its why our drinking water is clean, and why food is recalled when tainted by farmers cutting corners. Who will the people of the gulf turn too because a big company like BP doesn't resolve the disaster and make amends? Do you really want a company determining how much poison should be allowed in their products?

People rely on government to help protect them- not everyone is looking for handouts to buy HDTVs. Instead, they look for help when medicine increased from $10 a pill to $1,500 a pill. Government is not the enemy. It bothers me so much that the government by the people, for the people are put into some category of evilness. It's worse when people use government services, then cry about how much the government is destroying America....

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 03/28/11 - 12:53 pm
0
0
beck tears. I think you need

beck tears. I think you need to go back and re-read and comprehend the quote I posted.

Boortz was saying that we should look to them for only that. That govt SHOULD be looked upon to protect us & our property from others & from fraud/theft.

I inserted the word instead. Perhaps that will help you.

"We don't look to the govt as an entity that is supposed to protect us and our property from others who would use force or fraud to harm us or steal from us. *****instead****, We look to the govt as an entity that is designed to plug the gaps left by our responsibility and lack of a work ethic."

Crime Reports and Rewards TV
33
Points
Crime Reports and Rewards TV 03/28/11 - 01:03 pm
0
0
"How about the luxury of

"How about the luxury of powerboat races and riding jet skis up the Savannah River?"

If they get rid of the dam the only thing you will be able to ride on the river is Jet Skis and maybe a small boat. A staggered Fish ladder is so easy you can ride a jet ski up and down it. The ONLY excuse for U.S. not doing this is laziness and a lack of leadership.

Beck Tears
0
Points
Beck Tears 03/28/11 - 01:17 pm
0
0
"We don't look to the govt as

"We don't look to the govt as an entity that is supposed to protect us and our property from others who would use force or fraud to harm us or steal from us. *****instead****, We look to the govt as an entity that is designed to plug the gaps left by our responsibility and lack of a work ethic."

Nope- I stand by my words. I don't know the people you know, or talk too- but the people I associate with along with myself **do not** look to the government as an entity to plug gaps of responsibility and work, but rather see the government as an entity of protection.

So if you look at my words "but this [The protection portion] is exactly the role people want government for".

Perhaps that will help you.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 03/28/11 - 01:35 pm
0
0
Spin it however you want

Spin it however you want becktears, make it look like you were talking about self-sufficiency but you clearly misunderstood the quote. In your own words.

"I don't know what kind of company you keep- but this is exactly the role people want government for. People rely on government to help protect them"

You misunderstood the writer of the quote and then started on a tangent about how protection is the government's main role, etc. Which is exactly what Boortz was talking about. You were arguing in favor of the point I was making. You were *gasp* agreeing with me.

Glad to know at least one liberal isn't sponging off the taxpayers. You are a rarity.

My experience with liberals is they either sponge off of taxpayers themselves or they enable those who do (by helping them get benefits or by voting in liberal politicians who give the moochers more of my money).

Perhaps this will help you with your voting in the future.

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