Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Be careful what you wish for....

Many folks in the higher circles of the GOP are giddy with the possibility of a major realignment in the American electorate. In these next two election cycles, the Republicans could make real gains in both houses of Congress, take back a few governorships and stop the Obama hope and change express cold. All of this is well and good for the Republican pundits and campaign managers, but I have a question. What then?

The Democrats were sure, once they rid the White House of George W. Bush, the world would be righted by the sheer power of Barack Obama's genius. Woops. Very large, very complex, and systemic problems require drastic action and bold, honest leadership to fix.

Bringing about a fundamental change of this magnitude will require something I believe the American people have lost their taste for; pain. We want someone to fix the problem without paying the price in discomfort. We want someone to make it better, without changing it. We want a dentist to fix 20 years worth of dental problems with no shots, no drilling and very little inconvenience. We want hope and change, not pain and change.

This is a trap I hope the GOP will not fall into. The trillions in new spending and the industrial sized debt the President is piling up for our children will not lead to prosperity, they will lead to ruin. The American people are finally awakening to the sticker shock of this and are standing up to say, enough. So what happens if we give the purse strings back to the Republicans? Are we so certain this short walk in the wilderness has been long enough to drive out the big-spending habits of the Hastert/DeLay Republicans? I have my doubts.

If there is to be real, meaningful solutions for our nation's fiscal outlook, it will take more than a repackaging of old ideas. It will take a revolution in the way Americans think about government; what it should do, and more to the point, what it cannot do. To lead that revolution, we will need leaders who tell the public what the real price of reform will mean; sacrifice.

They will have to tell American's, vote for me, and it will hurt for a little while. Vote for me and I will spend your money as if it were my money. Vote for me and together we will have to make some difficult choices. Vote for me and I will promise to help fix these very large, very complex, very expensive problems, once and for all. Vote for me and you may be sorry when I cut some money from a program you like or receive a benefit. Vote for me and we will make many people angry, but we can look our children in the face and know we did the right thing for them.

Would anyone run a campaign like that? Who would say government is too big, tries to do too much, and it costs entirely too much? It will certainly not be the Democratic Party. Not now, and unless they rein in the progressives and revert back to the party of JFK, not ever. So, that leaves us with the Republicans. Not the 2000-2006 Republicans, but the 1994 Republicans, if there are any left.

Does anyone have the conviction to run as a candidate saying the government is not Santa Claus? I do not know. I do not know if anyone has the courage to say, we are going to reduce the size of government, not slow the growth, but over the next four years we are going to reduce the size government by 4%. One percent a year and everyone will need to take a little less. Defense, Education, Interior, even Social Security and Medicare. Everyone needs to be smarter about how they spend the taxpayer’s money. Everyone talks about waste, fraud and abuse, and the only way to find it is to make the bureaucrats account for every dollar, every full time position, and every check they hand out. It works in the private sector; it should work for government as well.

My fear is the Republicans will be swept back into power without truly repenting their past fiscal sins. Right now we need fiscal conservatives, and lots of them. After the 1.5 to 1.7 Trillion dollar Obama deficits this year, it won't be hard to say we will cut the deficit in half. That will be easy. We need someone who will explain, and then reverse, this huge government expansion before we go over the cliff that is surely coming.

That cliff is demographic in nature, and numbers do not lie. The massive flood of baby-boomers who will be coming into the Social Security and Medicare systems in the next two decades will break this nation, plain and simple. When you hear any politician say that SSI and Medicare will cost X amount in the next ten years, ask this one question. What will it cost in twenty? The first decade will be no picnic, but when the main surge of boomers hit their 70s and 80s and begin fully utilizing the Medicare system, those two government entitlement programs will take up the majority of our national budget.

So what can we do? I wish I knew.

In one respect, the President is right about health care, doing nothing is not an option. With Medicare going broke in the coming decades, the answer is not putting everyone on it, or something similar to it. The answer is not promising even more 'free' things that we simply cannot afford. The answer should be personal responsibility. Part of the answer should be tort reform, so doctors do not give you a myriad of unnecessary scans and tests in the hopes they will not be sued. Part of the answer should be using medical savings accounts to put you in charge of your heath care dollars. Part of the answer should be means testing these programs. Part of the answer will be vigorous, and I do mean vigorous, enforcement of Medicare and Social Security fraud. There will have to more ways to save money, and they will have to be found, fast. These answers are not going to popular, but the alternative is much, much worse.

If we keep electing people who say they will not cut anything, we will get what we deserve, a complete shutdown of the system. No more checks, no more care, no more 'free' anything. One day all the hospitals who accept Medicare patients will have a padlock on the door and a sign on the door saying come back in four months when the new fiscal year starts, we are out of money. All the SSI checks will stop and everyone will cry bloody murder. We are facing that reality in a few decades, if not sooner.

If Republicans think they can fix this with a few minor tweaks, they are sadly mistaken. If Democrats think they can tax their way out of this demographic noose, they are mistaken as well. The solution will be two fold. Grow the economy, and that means growing small businesses as well as reducing one of the highest corporate taxes in the industrialized world. The other part of the solution is going to be a smaller government footprint. However, even those who want smaller government are going to be upset when their benefits are reduced. Trust me; they will want you to cut off those "other guys" not my benefits.

Whoever takes on this problem had better be prepared for town hall meetings that make this summer's look like a Girl Scout bake sale. It will be ugly.

So, who is willing to say, follow me and feel the pain? The better question is, would you vote for that person?

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