If everybody deserves their share of federal spending, how will deficits ever cease?
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Despite some arguments over the details, the U.S. Senate appears ready to renew a package of more than 50 business tax breaks that would add about $85 million to the federal deficit, according to a report from the Associated Press.
“We will not pull the plug before our nation’s recovery is complete,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was quoted as saying. “By passing this tax extenders package we will build our nation’s economy more quickly.”
Of course it’s smart to limit the tax burden on private employers, and cancellation of the tax breaks, all at once, would impose a painful new financial burden on a lot of companies and industries.
Yet the all-too-familiar tone of Reid’s comments – we have to keep doing this – is troubling.
Just about everyone who benefits from government handouts of one kind or another can offer a logical argument for maintaining their piece of the pie. And there are too many politicians willing to keep doling out the dollars, particularly to pet interests. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, for instance, wants to extend depreciation for motor sports tracks, according to the AP.
No doubt that would be good for the race tracks, and probably the economy of North Carolina. But where do we draw the line?
Reality tells us that the federal pie is not nearly big enough to accommodate everyone. We will never eliminate our annual deficits, or begin to scratch the surface of our $17 trillion national debt, unless Democrats and Republicans alike find the backbone to say “no” to their special interest friends, even those with worthy causes.
But how can this happen without some sort of reform of our campaign finance system?
The problem is simple. It costs a lot of money to run for federal office, so most serious candidates, unless they are independently wealthy, are forced to sell themselves to moneyed interests that want something from the federal government.
A good example of this problem comes in a news report from Bloomberg.
The nation’s largest government contractors, many of them defense manufacturers, have increased political contributions by 29 percent compared to the last national election cycle.
They are apparently afraid of scheduled sequestration spending cuts that would largely target defense outlays
So they dole out campaign contributions and purchase politicians on both sides of the aisle. If they manage to butter enough palms, the spending cuts will be cancelled and the dollars will keep going out the door – whether it’s necessary or not.
“The government’s top 10 suppliers, most of which rely heavily on defense spending, made $13.7 million in PAC contributions during the first 15 months of the current two-year election cycle, which began Jan. 1, 2013. That compares with $10.6 million from Jan. 1, 2011 through March 31, 2012,” the Bloomberg story said.
“We do see this as a critical election year,” said Marion Blakey, chief executive officer of the Aerospace Industries Association. “We very much want to be central in their minds as they decide what matters most in the new Congress.”
This kind of open shopping for political favors has to stop. Some say big contributions to political candidates should be covered by the First Amendment, and they may have a point. But the ugly truth is that, until we fix this system and limit the influence of wealthy interests on federal spending decisions, nothing will change in Washington, D.C.
The necessary concept is “austerity.” That means everyone would have to live with less to help our government regain control of its spending. But will we ever find the right set of politicians with the courage to implement tough fiscal policy? Let’s hope so, because the alternative is eventual fiscal calamity.
Authored by Steve Gunn