WE MUST REGAIN FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY! by Judge Jim Gray 03/04/08
In my view, the most dangerous threat to our safety and security is not the possibility of being invaded by another country, or even the terrorist actions of any of the world’s radical elements. Instead, the greatest threat facing the safety of our country is a weak national economy.
Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and the Ottoman Empire were really not conquered by external forces. Instead, they overspent themselves to death and spread themselves too thin. That is a major lesson in history, and the Government of the United States of America has not learned that lesson.
For example, the total revenues or tax collections for the federal government in 2007 was about $2,500 billion, but the total expenditures by the federal government were about $3,200 billion. So our government had a budget deficit in this past year alone of $
To that we add the existing national debt of about $10,000 billion, which requires an annual debt service or interest payment of more than $350 billion. That is almost a billion dollars every day we make just in interest payments! At this point, we are making those interest payments both by borrowing the money from other countries, and by printing extra money – which contributes directly to inflation. So now can you see why the value of our dollar is declining?
If this balance sheet were to be applied to any private business, that business would be in bankruptcy. No non-governmental enterprise could possibly survive such red ink. But our government continues to deepen the hole we are in. Among other things, this recent tax cut results in our government borrowing even more money just so that it can give that money back to the lower-earning population. Politically that may be smart; but additional borrowing adds even more to inflation, which will hurt virtually everyone.
So all unproductive expenditures of the federal government must be eliminated, as a matter of our nation’s security! How can this be done? Well, we as taxpayers and voters must demand – now – that our government return to fiscal responsibility. In every respect, big and small.
For example, recently I received a really expensive brochure “Report to the District” from Congressman John Campbell, naturally prepared at taxpayer expense. You probably received one too. Okay, fine – all congressional representatives do it. But that is no excuse. It had to have cost a lot of taxpayer money. So I sent him a letter and suggested that, if such a report was necessary at all, it be provided in the form of a simple and inexpensive letter. To his credit he wrote back personally and said that I would never again see such a mailing from him. (I took this as a positive sign, but maybe that means I am simply off his mailing list.)
But otherwise it is up to us all to monitor all of our government’s spending. If military bases are still open that are not needed for security purposes, let’s close them. We still are supporting about 1,000 military bases in about 30 countries all around the world, even apart from those in Afghanistan and Iraq. Are all of them necessary? Let’s be sensible, for once, and stop paying for things we do not need!
We have already discussed in an earlier column how we can reduce unnecessary government agencies and their spending by passing “Sunset laws” that would require each federal agency to justify its own existence every seven years or be disbanded. What have you as concerned readers and taxpayers done to discuss this proposal with your elected representatives? Come on, our future and that of our children and country is at stake. This is serious stuff!
Every line item in our federal budget must be scrutinized as publicly as possible, and the size of the federal bureaucracy must be reduced. This will materially reduce government spending. Government does not in itself produce wealth. Instead it detracts from it.
Look at the island country of Singapore. It has a population of only 5 million people, no natural resources, and is only 700 square kilometers in size. But Singapore has put a competitive economic plan into operation, to the degree that this small country is now the 17th wealthiest economy in the world! For all of its lack of resources, it has a growth rate of 7 percent per year and an unemployment rate of only about 1.7 percent. The United States, on the contrary, has a growth rate of only 1.5 percent, and even that is declining, and an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent.
We can and must do better! We can regain our economic strength without withdrawing from our military and other obligations. But we must have a change in thinking and a change in approach. And it begins with us. You and I must cause that change to take place!
To be honest, I am now 63 years old, and our economic troubles will probably not affect me personally all that much. But it is my generation that has been borrowing all of that money. And it will be our children’s generation and that of our grandchildren that will be forced to face the effects of our irresponsibility and pay it back.
At the very least this is embarrassing, and at worst it is criminal. Please join with me in taking notice of these problems right away, helping to change our country’s course and leaving our descendents a better life than they are now facing. I think it is a matter of honor.
James P. Gray is a Judge of the Superior Court in California, the author of Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It - A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs (Temple University Press, 2001) and Wearing The Robe - The Art And Responsibilities of Judging In Today's Courts, has a blog at http://judgejamesgray.blogspot.com/. http://www.judgejimgray.com, and can be contacted at www.judgejimgray.com.