Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I can't hear you

I discuss and debate politics quite often, maybe too often. Over the years, my views have changed as I read, learned and participated in the world of politics. Growing more conservative in my views over the past twenty years or so, I have had plenty of practice debating, defending and rethinking what I believe. This is a good thing. Some of the greatest insights and discoveries I have made came by this process.

Socratic questioning is one of the best ways to uncover how you came to believe what you believe, and whether your beliefs are logical. After all, what good are beliefs you really don't understand, and cannot defend?

Having political discussions at work usually consists of me debating everyone else. That's fine. The truth is the truth, and facts are facts no matter how many people are saying you are wrong. That’s the issue I have the hardest time with. When you debate people who "feel" and "believe" something using their own set of assumptions, along with their own personal facts, the debate breaks down.

When you talk about federal spending and spending cuts with a person who thinks half the budget goes to the pentagon, you are in for a long, frustrating conversation. When you point out that Medicare will be broke in a few short years, the person you're debating says the solution is to put everyone on Medicare and eliminate private health insurance. Oy vey.

To quote the warden in Cool Hand Luke, "Some folks, you just can't reach."

Sometimes, the folks hardest to reach are those supposedly on your side. A great example of this was the first draft of budget cuts proposed by house Republican leaders last week. After winning in November on a platform of cutting 100 billion from President Obama's 2011 budget, the House leadership proposed 32 billion in cuts. Many conservatives hit the roof, myself included.

You don't understand they said, the budget year is almost half over, and the 32 billion was all we could cut right now, blah, blah, blah. Seriously? 32 billion is a rounding error when you are looking at a 1.5 Trillion dollar federal deficit out of a 3.8 Trillion dollar budget. When the stuff hit the fan in Speaker Boehner's office this week, the leadership magically found the 100 billion in cuts they promised.
Now, that is a really big number right? That is going to make a huge dent in the deficit right? No. Let me explain.

If, and that is a big if, the house gets their 100 billion in cuts, the deficit for this year will go down from 1.5 Trillion to 1.4 Trillion. It is like having congestive heart failure, being 150 pounds overweight, and your doctor telling you to lose that extra 150 pounds or you are going to die. Losing 10 pounds in a year is a start, but you should be losing much more, much faster. At this rate it will take another 14 years to reach a balanced budget, let alone reducing our overall debt.

I'm sure even the ten pounds is too much weight to lose for some groups. The SEIU and NEA and every other public employee union will be fighting these reductions tooth and nail. I’ll bet you will soon hear radio ads in scary voices telling you the Republicans are trying to balance the budget of the backs of "X". You name it; teachers, the elderly, children, police and firemen, polar bears, we just can't afford these draconian cuts, call you representative now!

At least that is what they'll say. Just remember, in 2006 the entire federal budget was 2.6 Trillion dollars, with a deficit (the difference between what the government takes in taxes and what they spent) of 249 billion dollars. Ah, the good old days. President Obama's 2011 budget is 3.8 Trillion with a budget deficit of 1.5 Trillion dollars. What the Republicans in the house are asking for is to cut the budget from 3.8 Trillion to 3.7, and the deficit from 1.5 to 1.4, isn't that horrible?

How will the federal government manage?

No comments: