Life is full of choices, some easy and some not so easy. The most difficult of these are often characterized as choices between a “hard right” and an “easy wrong”. More often than not these are the types of choices our elected leaders must make. In dealing with some of the most complicated issues, they not only have to make an individual choice, but also come to a group consensus. It’s no wonder the actions of Congress frequently leave us shaking our heads.
In watching the news this morning I came across an example of each of these sides of the coin. The Defense budget is chock full of places where we as a nation can save money. Both outgoing Secretary Gates and incoming Secretary Panetta seem genuinely interested in reducing spending, proposing some truly bold ideas that take on the individual interests of certain sectors of Americans. The newest proposal suggests:
A lawmaker’s general stance towards issues such as deficit spending, or the intelligence of stimulating the economy with government spending goes right out the window when issues like these directly affect their constituents. But these are exactly the “hard right” choices we need to make. Congress has an obligation to serve the country, not just their state or district. We can not get out of this financial mess with only a few cuts, so we will get nowhere if all the interest groups seek only to pass the buck. This is like a really bad game of musical chairs.
But the fact is we are all in this together. Cut education or cut defense? I’m a Sailor with 17 years of service and also two sisters who are teachers? Defense or Seniors? I have two parents and one grandparent still around (and I’m not getting any younger). What about health care? Well, my dad’s a doctor and my wife’s a nurse.
Voting blocks and special interest groups are made of individuals with complex lives. Deflecting cuts from one special interest group to another will not solve anything, nor will it really shield it’s members from the effects of the cuts. Americans are too interconnected for that to be true.
No single raindrop thinks it’s responsible for the flood but when the waters at levee, there’s no doubt the flood is here. Not funding NPR may or may not be a good thing, but let’s not pretend it’s the magic bullet budget issue. It’s just not that easy. But if we really want to make progress every group needs to realize that they have some fat that could be trimmed, and that trimming it may cause some individuals some pain or discomfort. That’s why I applaud the DOD for embracing reality and facing up to some difficult decisions (even if Congress refuses to acknowledge them). Now if other groups can admit that we’re all in this together maybe things can get moving.
Now for the “easy wrong”. Representative Anthony Weiner has proposed splitting the Bin laden reward money with victims of 9-11 and the first responders of the incidents. This is a feel good story, but……really? Not spending the $50 million as a reward is not the same as having it in the bank. Weiner is really pandering to his constituents for votes. It’s unseemly to use patriotic, good intentions to make us feel good in the short-term, while we go broke in the long-term.
There is no amount of money that can compensate the actions of a great many people, so the government should not hand out money because people “deserve it”. This country is absolutely full of individuals who deserve more than they get. Representative Weiner not only has taken the easy route to pandering to his voters, but should the bill be raised to a vote it will ask many more individuals to make the “hard right” versus the “easy wrong” choice.