The 2010 election results have political analysts offering all kinds of possibilities—the best case scenario is that perhaps the shift in the balance of power will cause Republicans and Democrats to work together in a less partisan fashion. The worst case scenario is gridlock that will shut down the government as we experienced in ’94.
Mike Lee, the newly-elected Tea Party senator from Utah showed an embarrassing lack of basic math skills and naiveté about how Congress operates when interviewed on PBS News Hour this week. Lee plans to introduce a constitutional amendment to force the federal government to have a balanced budget each year—as most states are required to do. Lee plans to vote against raising the debt limit ceiling this spring which would cause a government shutdown. He also plans to vote to extend the Bush-era tax cuts which will cost the government as much as $4 trillion in the next decade. He believes government spending can be cut enough to balance the budget without touching Defense, Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare—which is 60% of the budget.
It’s nice to believe that Congress has the fortitude to root out enough Waste, Fraud and Greed to balance the budget. The problem is—members of Congress are only willing to root out WFG in states and districts other than their own. An example is Utah’s conservative delegation which talks the fiscal- responsibility talk, but bellows like castrated calves if cuts of obsolete aircraft or NASA components made in Utah are proposed. Multiply that kind of self-interest by 50 states and tell me Congress has the will to reduce spending.
The French and the Greeks took to the streets to protest their governments’ attempts to cut spending and balance their budgets. Closer to home, we’ve seen what’s happened in California over the past decade. Arnold Schwarznegger was swept into office when Gray Davis was blamed for California’s fiscal problems. Arnold was given two terms, but had no magic wand to restore the Golden State’s prosperity and is now widely reviled. Jerry Brown will not be able to improve the situation and will take his turn as scapegoat and be replaced in four years.
California’s problem is not the head of their government so much as it is voters who think they can keep or expand all state programs which benefit them personally while cutting taxes—a mathematical impossibility. The only people who really benefit from voter myopia are the ad producers for political campaigns. I hope some of the profits from these enormously expensive campaigns will trickle down enough to boost our economy. I don’t see much hope that changing leaders or parties will help until we change ourselves.