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Novocain or Root Canal?

It has become abundantly clear that, with a few notable exceptions, neither Congress nor the American people are really serious about dealing with the nation’s financial crisis. Most of the blame for where we find ourselves today can be put on the ever increasing (and ever more costly) expansion of government intrusion into the lives of private citizens. And despite the multitude of excuses for the “Nanny State” the results are always the same: more and more taxes and debt, and less and less personal freedom and liberty.

Make no mistake, while the belief in expanding government as the solution to every social ill is a hallmark of today’s socialism-infected Democratic party, there is no doubt that too far many Republicans have also gone along for the ride. In the immediate aftermath of the 1994 “Republican Revolution” the newly elected Republicans did initially show some backbone (in tax rate reductions and welfare reform, for example) but it wasn’t long before they began to “go along to get along” with massive increases in spending on huge social programs like Medicare and Education.

The bottom line is that nobody today wants to deal with the fundamental problem: we simply spend too much, and if we are going to get out of this mess we are going to have to make cuts – big, painful cuts. But like the weak parents of a spoiled child, Congress simply can’t say “NO” to any demand for more and more “stuff” – even when they have no way to pay for it other than running up the credit cards or taking out a second mortgage. And like temper-tantrum throwing brats, the recipients of all these “free” goodies don’t care. They expect their “parents” to pony up (i.e. raise taxes on “the wealthiest Americans”), no matter what the long term repercussions.

President Obama announces a “freeze” on Federal workers’ salaries. Big deal. When Federal workers are being paid nearly twice as much as private sector workers doing the same job, what difference does it really make? The bottom line is that we can no longer afford to tinker around the edges or limit cuts to “discretionary spending” which amounts to only 17% of the budget. “Entitlements” make up more than 75% of the Federal budget (and nearly the same percentage of state spending). So unless and until we face up to the harsh economic reality and deal with Education, Medicare and Medicaid – and that 800 pound gorilla of spending, Social Security – we may as well be trying to lighten a 747 by emptying the ash trays.

Unfortunately, in today’s world no one wants to accept cuts in their government check. We don’t want to hear that “root canal” is going to be necessary – we want “novocain” instead. Just mask the pain and hope the real problem somehow magically goes away. But just as ignoring an infected tooth will only lead to far more pain later, so will our failure to reign in spending inexorably lead to even greater disaster down the road. Let’s hope that the newly elected Republican majority (and sensible Democrats) finally begin to act like good doctors, rather than bad parents.

John Caile

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