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Wasteful Washington Spending

The GOP is diagnosed with ADD (America’s Deficit Disorder)

 Wasteful Washington Spending

Just last weekend top GOP presidential hopefuls and southern politicians attended the Southern Republican Leadership Conference and asserted (to every journalist and camera that could be found) that republicans were going to become “more thrifty with taxpayers’ money.”

“We’ve been hit with unexpected challenges,” stated Majority Leader Bill Frist, “But they’re not justification for a one-way ticket down a wayward path of wasteful Washington spending.”

This week is probably one of the most stress filled that republicans on Capitol Hill have faced in a long time. While trying to revive their party image as fiscally conservative for the upcoming elections at a time when many American’s have begun to ‘feel the pinch’ in their own checkbooks–the Senate must vote by Friday on permitting the federal debt to grow by $781 billion to avoid a nightmarish government default. However, approving this measure will allow the National Debt to have grown by almost $3 trillion since Bush took office in 2001.

For a perspective, according to former President Reagan, it took the United States 166 years, 1 Civil and 2 World Wars to accumulate a $95 billion debt. Today we’re talking in terms of trillions over just 6 years.

This doesn’t represent the image to voters that republicans want to portray for themselves in this election year, and it appears that a fight may be brewing between the President and members of the GOP over tax cuts Bush was able to get in the past that are set to expire in 2010 and he wishes to make permanent.

There’s also major tensions over the President’s proposed budget cuts to Medicare, education and health research. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee; has threatened to oppose the budget altogether over Bush’s cuts.

Meanwhile, across Capitol Hill the (republican controlled) House is about to inflate the debt further with another $91 billion in debt-financed funding for the war in Iraq and additional hurricane relief. Many GOP conservatives in the House are unhappy with the idea of this debt-financed funding and are promoting additional and deeper cuts elsewhere in the budget to fund the $91 billion instead.

Democrats have offered very little to counter or control the current state of financial disorder we’re in. They did–with the support of a few moderate Republicans–attempt to restore the pay-as-you-go budget rules which require all tax cuts and new entitlement programs to be financed by tax increases or spending cuts in the budget. It failed in a 50-50 vote, and it seems Democrats are now planning to just sit back (mostly in over-stuffed Guest chairs on television shows) and point fingers across the aisle until the elections arrive.

So, what’s the answer? Well, it just so happens I have a few ideas on this. Some minor points that seem like simple common sense to me.

Kill NASA. Hey, I love the idea of space exploration and am an avid viewer of the Discovery channel, but let’s be practical. When I compare meals-on-wheels to feed members of our “Greatest Generation” against flying a $3 billion model airplane with a camera on it into the face of a comet at 6 miles per second… neat as it may be; I have to say pass the potatoes. I know it’s a tough decision, but priorities must be set. Maybe next year we can visit Micky on the moon.

End corporate welfare. Every penny of tax placed on a company is passed on to consumers at some point in the pricing of their products or services. Companies do not pay taxes, they only collect them for the government. Nothing can or will prevent this pyramid. However, when the government then turns around and creates or offers additional tax ‘breaks’ and ‘incentives’ for the company, it’s in effect a double-dipping, a plundering; the burdon of which is then thrust upon the taxpaying consumers primarily in the middle and lower economic classes.

Revisit Farms subsidies. I don’t suggest eliminating these by any means, but we need to take a candid look at where the subsidies are going. Recent reports state that over 75% of the funding is being given to the wealthiest 10% of farms? Somehow, that just seems wrong. How about rewriting this so that from now on only the poorest 10% of farms are even eligible? America should help Americans who need and deserve it, not pay wealthy land owners who have no interest in farming for not farming their lands.

Stop Pork! This is the ‘big guns’ move, but also the hardest to accomplish because it requires the politicians who benefit from bringing the pork money home to stop doing it. Pork accounts for billions of dollars in wasted taxpayers’ money every year and must be the very first step taken in any honest attempt at fiscal conservatism.

    In 2005 taxpayers spent:*

  • $1.8 million for berry research in Alaska
  • $3.7 million for a Fruit Laboratory in West Virginia
  • $2.3 million for animal waste management in Kentucky
  • $3 million for a Forage Animal Research Laboratory in Kentucky
  • $6.3 million for wood utilization research across several states (that apparently haven’t yet mastered lumber)
  • $20 million for the Bonneau Ferry in South Carolina
  • $1.1 million on alcohol interdiction in Alaska
  • $7.9 million for Weather Service archives in Kentucky
  • $1.7 million for a Fisheries Science Center in Washington
  • $1.5 million for a tourist ‘island’ with Llama and Deer in Washington
  • $33.9 million for the Maui Space Surveillance System in Hawaii
  • $6.4 million for the digitization of technical and operations manuals in Hawaii (can’t they read from books anymore?)
  • $1.5 million towards SETI program (listed under defense spending) – (I say let E.T. pay for the call)
  • $200 million for CIP (Commodity Import Program) for Egypt. CIP loans Egyptian importers the money to purchase products from U.S. exporters. The loan repayments are then used to supply funding for the government of Egypt (A 2003 USAID study showed that about 66% of these Egyptian importers would purchase their products from the U.S. exporters anyway, but I’m sure they like the U.S. taxpayers providing their goods for them. That’s $200 million of American taxpayers’ money being used to enrich Egyptian businesses and fund the government of Egypt)
  • $10 million given to the International Fund for Ireland for job creation and equal opportunity for the Irish people
  • $7.4 million for the Eielson Visitor Center at Denali National Park in Alaska
  • $5 million for a river watershed in Montana
  • $11 million for the Gettysburg Military Park in Pennsylvania
  • $1 million for a Marina in Pennsylvania
  • $1.6 million to move the belongings of 5 ranchers who relocated from the Mojave National Preserve in California
  • $1.8 million for a Shoreline Trail in Utah
  • $2.6 million for abstinence education in Pennsylvania
  • $1.3 million for the American Film Institute’s Screen Education Program in California
  • $3.3 million for the U.S. Senate’s Capitol Visitor Center (a project that was originally estimated at $265 million, has already gone over $559 million and isn’t yet completed)
  • $3 million to Congress for a House staff fitness facility

All of these examples make up only a very small percentage of the wasteful Pork spending in 2005 alone. It is as out of control as ever before and must be addressed prior to cutting any sort of social programs or adding any new taxes to the already pillaged families of America.

We’ve got plenty of check writers in Washington already, this November I’ll be looking for bean-counters to support, how about you?

* Data Source:
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Administrator.thumbnail Wasteful Washington Spending


A conservative liberal with a perspicuous perspective on American politics.

Scott's writings have been published on dozens of news and opinion outlets both online and off.

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  1. 9 Responses to “Wasteful Washington Spending”

  2. By Shawn Bannon | Reply to article


    I’m with you on the pork issue, but I’ve got to take issue with you on a couple of other matters. First of all, regarding the deficit, you can’t claim that Americans are feeling the pinch when you consider that key measurements of economic health are all excellent. Just look at the housing market, which has been riding a wave of increasing prices because consumers have the money to pay more. Analysts have been predicting that the price bubble would burst for well over a year, but it hasn’t yet. And home owners make up a greater percentage of our population today than at any time since that rate was first measured. Gas prices are twice what they were just a couple of years ago, but they are that high because market demand is sustaining those prices. People aren’t dramatically changing their driving habits. They’re just paying more for the gas.

    And the health of the economy is due — in large part — to tax rate cuts by the Bush administration and, as far as corporations are concerned, at the state level. President Bush’s tax cuts went into effect in 2001, and predictably, tax revenue has gone up — even through the 2002-2003 recession. This is just as it was in the early 1960s, when President Kennedy slashed tax rates, and in the 1980s, when President Reagan did the same. Tax rates go down. Consumer spending and business investment go up. Companies expand, jobs are created, and tax revenue increases. This is why pay as you go tax policy doesn’t work. It negates the effects of growth investments in the economy. Low tax rates — at the individual and corporate levels — result in more abundant economic growth and increased tax revenues. History bears that out. Conversely, increases in tax rates stall consumer spending and limit the ability of corporations to reinvest profits in ways that grow the businesses and create jobs.

    It’s unfair to discuss “cuts” in the budgets for education and certain entitlement programs because those “cuts” only appear in a comparison of 2005 and 2004 budgets. But education and Medicare budgets have ballooned since President Bush took office in 2001 as a result of the No Child Left Behind legislation and the new prescription drug benefit for seniors. Senator Specter is way off base on this issue.

    Can’t kill NASA. Too much American innovation in the last 50 years is a result of NASA research. Too many of the products in our homes would never have been created were it not for initial applications of the underlying science in NASA programs. Could we better focus the scope of NASA as a way of containing costs? Yes, and we might gain some ground. But neither a major overhaul or a funeral for the program will result in long-term benefits for our economy that outweigh the cost of surrendering the benefits we’ve reaped and will continue to reap from NASA’s existence.

    Corporate welfare is a misnomer, and I think you’re looking at the issue the wrong way. Corporations absolutely do pay taxes on income in the same way you and I do. Consumers bear the burden of high corporate tax rates only in the same sense that our employers pass tax money through us to the government. When they are given tax breaks — often to relocate to new cities or to expand in a particular region — local governments are trading a limited amount of tax revenue for the job creation and resulting economic growth. Does it work? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But is it corporate welfare? No, it’s a calculated risk taken by local politicians that simply does not always pay off.

    Lastly, regarding farm subsidies, your point is well made, and better controls are required. But the answer isn’t a subsidy program that rewards only those poor farmers who struggle to maintain their small operations. Without those subsidies, large farms that are actually producing food will become unsustainable and/or the price of food will rise dramatically, seriously affecting the poor. So, the answer is a tweak to the subsidy program that simply looks to cut out benefits to those people who own “farms” that don’t yield anything more than the subsidies themselves.

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  3. By Scott Bannon | Reply to article

    Shawn, thank you for the comments. To be clear, I was summarizing what several Republicans (mostly in contested re-election races) have stated in recent days prior to my writing regarding Americans ‘feeling the pinch’. We’ll have to agree to disagree on this, but for many lower and middle class Americans the belt is already as tight as it can get, so I’ll stand in line with the Republicans’ statements.

    As for Bush’s tax rate cuts and the battle to continue them, I don’t believe I came down personally on either side of the issue in my posting. My comments on this were simply intended to highlight current internal party splits occurring over economic issues.

    I disagree that it’s unfair to discuss “cuts” in the budgets of programs just because those “cuts” only appear in a comparison of 2005 and 2004 budgets. Whether a certain level of spending for any program has been sustained for the past ten years or only one, a reduction to that spending is by definition a “cut” and by all means fair to discuss.

    I get your point on NASA and agree somewhat. As I mentioned I am a huge fan of NASA, the Discovery channel and cutting-edge sciences. Still, I believe that private sector advances and innovations have the ability to trump government funded research in most areas. This is the biggest (of many) favorable argument for a capitalistic society in my opinion.

    While I’d prefer NASA didn’t die completely, it’s true that a large amount of money (billions and billions of dollars each year) is being spent to fly rockets into comets and 4-wheeling a robot around the surface of Mars. The research behind these programs is valid and honorable, but not as priority as some other programs when spending must be reduced.

    It’s like managing a household budget on a grander scale. If you can’t afford to upgrade to the latest new gadget-packed, paper-thin, projection based home theater system this year because little Timmy needed braces, then you suffer through watching The Simpsons on that outdated 60 inch big-screen for another year and upgrade at a later time.

    Maybe I do look upon corporate welfare from the wrong perspective, but maybe not. If the owner(s) of Smith’s Widgets decides they want a full dollar per widget sold profit margin, then understanding that they’ll pay about 47% of their income in taxes means they can price their widgets to have a little over a dollar and a half profit margin. The government gets it’s 47% and Smith’s Widgets pockets the full dollar per widget sold they wanted.

    Obviously it’s not quite that simplistic, but then again to some degree it really is.

    That said, I wasn’t focused solely on local government deals which offer tax incentives and breaks to companies in order to grow jobs for their regions. The problem is at the federal level as well and masked as pork in many instances. A perfect example is a recent Highways Bill which holds an outrageous amount of pork-based corporate welfare payouts such as $37 million to expand a single road in Arkansas that is the main access point to the headquarters of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

    I’m not sure of the exact 2005 profits for Wal-Mart, but in 2004 it’s listed at $10.3 billion dollars. And while I understand the need to have large businesses located in a community and to work with them to keep them in the community, reports I’ve seen on this suggest the traffic problems weren’t that bad when compared to similar through-fares. Still, taxpayers were forced to shell out $37 million dollars so that Wal-Mart employees could have faster access to their workplace. This is a form of corporate welfare that exists but is often overlooked.

    On farm subsidies, this is a tough one. I know limiting it to only a certain percentage could have negative impacts for the entire agricultural industry and burden consumers ultimately. I also know that tons of money is spent each year paying land owners not to use their lands. A quick search on Google will show that often these land owners are Sports or other Entertainment stars or wealthy business owners. Not people who would farm their land anyway, but still the government will pay them to ensure this. It’s a tax loop-hole being exploited, it’s wasted money and the entire program needs to have a candid and transparent review to ensure the money is being used in the best possible manner to aid the most deserving candidates.

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  4. By Shawn Bannon | Reply to article


    I’m always glad to enter into debate with you.

    You’re right that many in the GOP are split over spending and tax cuts. Some in my party have lost sight of the fiscal restraint voters expect from Republican legislators. There have been some extenuating circumstances contributing to the current situation, but at the end of the day, Republican legislators do have to do a better job of controlling themselves when it comes to spending.

    Having said that, no, you didn’t come down on one side or the other regarding the Bush tax cuts. And I wasn’t criticizing your discussion of those tax cuts. Rather, I was detailing some of the benefits of those tax cuts to explain why pay-as-you-go budgetary policy, which you endorsed, will not provide for the expansion of our economy in the way that maintaining the tax cuts will.

    There is nothing wrong with some deficit spending – even a lot of deficit spending – if the economy grows robustly enough to pay down the resulting deficits in a reasonable amount of time. The ratio of the deficit to GDP is far more important than the actual deficit level. So, you can increase borrowing to pay for important things like the war on terrorism, a limited expansion of Medicare, realignment of our national education policy, infrastructure improvements, etc. But legislators need to know where the line is between what uses of our tax dollars are prudent and necessary and those that only create political capital. Pay-as-you-go budgetary policy doesn’t work (it is exceptionally bad in a time of crisis), isn’t necessary and – in fact – retards the growth potential of the economy. But that doesn’t mean Republicans should feel free to run up the tab, either.

    Now, to just address some of the points you made in your response to my comments:

    It is unfair to discuss cuts to the education and Medicare budgets as you have because you neglected to put them into context. They are presented in your original piece as indicative of administrative neglect – look at the cuts to these important projects while other, less-important or pork projects are fully funded. That’s what’s unfair about your discussion of the cuts. The funds dedicated to education and Medicare have increased vastly since President Bush took office, largely in response to need created by new legislation and enhancement of benefits. While school systems adjusted to new standards and Medicare infrastructure was created to account for these changes, more money was necessary. But, that same level of spending isn’t necessary now that the programs are up and running, so it is entirely appropriate to reduce these budgets.

    Think about a small business – a hardware store, maybe. The store is moderately successful, and overhead costs generally run about $1 million a year. (That’s just an example; I have no idea what the actual overhead costs to operate a hardware store would be.) So, after 10 years in business, the owner decides to open a second store across town. In that year, his operating costs are going to skyrocket. He has to construct or renovate a building, purchase inventory, hire staff, etc. It might cost him $5 million to get his store up and running, and then he’ll have higher expenses associated with running the second store for a number of years until it becomes as much a part of the community and local economy as his first store. In time, though, the cost to run the second store should be about the same as the cost to run the first. So, five years down the line, his overhead costs are maybe $2.5 million for the combined operation. Now, his overhead budget has decreased, year over year since the second store first opened, but that doesn’t mean he’s neglecting the business, stocking lower-quality merchandise or cheating his customers.

    The same goes for government spending. Too often, we think that reducing funds dedicated to a particular program means an automatic deterioration in the quality of that program. And people like Senator Specter fight for continued funding at the same levels or increased funding – pouring tax dollars where they aren’t being used effectively – which means we have to cut elsewhere, accept a higher budget deficit or raise taxes. We can debate education funding another time, but pouring more money into classrooms is not – long term – the answer to America’s education problem.

    Regarding NASA, maybe we do just need to agree to disagree, because I think you’re 100 percent – OK, maybe just 95 percent – wrong here. As I wrote last night, yes, I agree that some reprioritization of projects and expenditures may be necessary, but I would actually argue that NASA administrators have done a laudable job in this regard in recent years. They have adjusted their plans for space exploration significantly in light of budget and safety concerns.

    NASA research is essential; it spurs innovation in the private sector that would not happen otherwise because the cost would be prohibitive to business leaders accountable to investors. This is similar to the argument many people make in favor of federal funding for stem-cell research. Setting aside the benefits to our defense programs, the benefits of NASA research to our everyday lives – including, but many far more important than luxury items like big-screen TVs – are too many to sacrifice.

    Just ask anyone who has ever survived a life-threatening illness because of improved medical understanding based on NASA science. Ask an amputee who can run today because of an artificial leg designed using metals and engineering concepts first developed for NASA application. Ask someone whose family escaped a trailer home in Oklahoma just before a tornado struck how important it was that they got a 14-minute warning due to improved weather tracking systems and an enriched understanding of the climate based on NASA research. A few generations ago, they wouldn’t have known about that tornado until they heard it ripping through their neighbors’ homes. Ask the young woman whose life was saved when she was able to dial police with her cell phone from the trunk of her abductor’s car about the importance of that phone and the global positioning technology the police used to find her. This is NASA. It isn’t about super-duper big-screen TVs, as nice as they are. I’d recommend that you check out the Life on Earth portion of NASA’s Web site for just a little bit of information about the many important ways NASA is making the world a better place. You can find it at

    Of course, this doesn’t mean we should grant NASA an unlimited research budget or that there shouldn’t be appropriate controls in place to review their spending, but I will never agree that NASA spending is akin to the politically motivated pork projects that are the real scourge on our budget.

    Switching subjects, I’m afraid I also have to disagree with your “corporate welfare” argument. Your widget company can’t just raise prices to create its desired margins for a number of reasons, all of which are a testament to the beauty of capitalism. Put simply, they can only charge what the market will bear. If they raise prices and consumers continue to buy their products, then they were charging too little to begin with. If they raise prices and consumers choose to stop buying their widgets, the company will lower its prices or, sensing opportunity, an enterprising competitor will step in and sell a comparable product for a 75-cent profit margin. At the end of the day, the physics of competition inherent to capitalism dictate that goods will be sold only at a price the market can bear, which is why capitalism is good for consumers.

    As for the Wal-Mart example, that is not “corporate welfare,” and it may not even be pork. Wal-Mart has grown from a small organization into one of the world’s largest. It has, in many ways, outgrown its home, so to speak. Now, it could move. That’s probably what you or I would do if we outgrew our homes. But the politicians who represent the citizens of Arkansas understand the immense value to their constituents and to the economy of their state inherent in keeping Wal-Mart right where it is. If widening a road improves traffic flow and also benefits the economy by way of making the location a more suitable place for Wal-Mart to continue its operation, it is entirely appropriate for the funding of that project to be included in a highway appropriations bill.

    Wal-Mart profits have nothing to do with this argument. They aren’t any more directly responsible to pay for the upkeep of the roads around their headquarters than we as individual tax-payers are responsible to pay for the maintenance of the streets on which we live. Yes, their profits were huge. But so was their tax burden. Was this expenditure pork – a legislator throwing a bone to a company back home? Maybe. That depends on whether or not the project was really necessary to improve traffic flow and keep the Wal-Mart headquarters there. Neither you nor I have the education or the in-depth knowledge of the particulars concerning this location to determine whether or not the road project was necessary. But even if it wasn’t – even if it was pork – it still wasn’t “corporate welfare.”

    As I wrote last night, “corporate welfare” is a misnomer. By and large, it doesn’t actually exist except in the minds of liberals who don’t want to believe there is ever a good reason to use tax dollars in a way that would benefit large corporations. One could make the argument that certain government bailouts, such as the support the government gave the airlines after September 11, were “corporate welfare.” But those are very rare occasions and not what most people mean when they use the term.

    Usually, the phrase “corporate welfare” is used by people who deny the superiority of capitalism to other economic systems. These are people who believe that everything should be equal and that nobody should ever have whatever they consider to be “too much” while others go without. These are people who believe in entitlements instead of self-reliance; they believe the role of the government is to provide sustenance instead of opportunity. They think Wal-Mart and other successful companies are inherently evil. And they’ve invented the term “corporate welfare” because they don’t believe that successful organizations should be catered to in any way, shape or form by our government. This is their platform despite the fact that organizations like Wal-Mart create jobs, fuel economic growth and contribute to the communities in which they’re located. These liberals are really take-from-the-rich-and-give-to-the-poor socialists who would rather tear down those who are successful than tell those who are not to make more of their opportunities.

    Now, don’t think me cruel or callous. We as a people ought to be compassionate. We ought to take care of those who are truly disadvantaged. But we ought to do that more as neighbors and less as taxpayers. We ought to do that through the donations we make to our churches or our coworkers’ fundraising walkathons. We ought to give more of our own time as volunteers. We ought to encourage our government to fund job-skills training for those who want to make a better life for themselves and their loved ones. We ought to stand behind government aid that offers people a hand up, not a hand out. But we should rise up against any effort to penalize those who have been prosperous because “it isn’t fair” that there are others who have not realized their potential. And that’s what liberals/socialists – the people who argue against any use of tax dollars that would benefit a corporation (regardless of the resulting benefit to the community and the economy) – aim to do. I don’t believe you’re one of them, so I’d encourage you to rethink this issue and use of the term “corporate welfare.”

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  5. By Scott Bannon | Reply to article

    Shawn, glad I could goad you in. I enjoy our civil back and forths.

    I didn’t endorse the pay-as-you-go budgetary policy. I illustrated it as the single most significant–and failed–move recently made by Democrats to address out of control spending in Washington. My apologies if that wasn’t clearly evident in my article.

    We don’t disagree on the dangers of the pay-as-you-go rules, they are restrictive and deeply impacting to the nation. We probably do disagree on when a drastic stopgap measure would be appropriate to instill, but I’ll leave it as a philosophical difference on where to draw the budgetary line of death.

    On NASA, as I’ve conceded already, I understand your point and don’t fully disagree. However, balancing a national budget is hard work. There’s a finite amount to go around and tough choices must be made. The bottom line is priorities. Yes, NASA has made (and continues to make) tremendous contributions to enrich people’s lives.

    No less important though, to an equal or greater amount of the American population is food, shelter, medicine and education to ensure future generations have the skills to continue developing new and greater technologies.

    While high above many other money-pit projects and certainly towering over the mountain of pork waste, NASA still falls below many essential programs and services in priority as well, my original point was that when we begin cutting these – NASA must come ahead in the chopping block line.

    We view corporate welfare from differing perspectives, we should probably leave this one at that. Neither in this article nor ever in conversation have I stated an all-out opposition to tax dollars benefiting business. There are significant and numerous areas where government assistance to business is vital, for both the individual business and the community. Right after September 11th, 2001, when the airline industry had taken a huge blow from the attacks I didn’t oppose the initial bail-out in any way, though I thought some industry-model restructuring stipulations would have been wise to attach. I did oppose subsequent bail-out requests because I feel (from my limited outsider knowledge and perspective) that the industry as a whole has huge operational problems (most of which existed pre 9/11) and has yet to address them in an efficient manner. The initial assistance was a deserved hand-up, subsequent requests were for the proverbial hand-outs in my opinion.

    I have never proposed penalizing a business or industry which does well for itself. I’ll offer my previous articles here on regarding the oil industry as examples. I oppose any effort to enact special taxes on success.

    I’ll stand behind my Wal-Mart example. Was it really corporate welfare? That depends upon how you define welfare I suppose. I define it as government assistance to be used for sustaining and improving one’s self (or corporation). Wal-Mart specifically benefited (improved) from this project, so it falls within that definition from my perspective. It’s likely that if the road were in a busy commercial area and the widening had benefited a number of businesses instead of just one I would feel differently, that doesn’t seem the case from what I found.

    As for listing Wal-Mart’s profits, it wasn’t to suggest that they should have somehow been responsible for paying to widen the roadway themselves, it was to illustrate that there were however, probably more deserving places for that money to go. Assuming that the road widening wasn’t immediately essential as reporting suggests.

    I don’t want to continue on this track much further for fear that some reader may believe I’m just “another liberal attacking Wal-Mart”. I’ve defended that company in the past against such attacks and only used them as an example here because the example and facts were the first available in a quick search. If similar findings regarding another business had been first I would have used them instead. I almost feel a need to email Lee Scott with a mia coppa.

    To go off-topic from the original article here for just a moment, I don’t think you are cruel or callous, but I believe it’s wrong to make blanket implications that suggest a negative equation of liberals with socialists.

    First of all, socialism itself isn’t inherently evil as some would believe. It’s a system, no more or less, and any evil examples that can be cited–I say can be attributed to the people working the system and not the system itself. The same is true of monarchies, democracies and republics through history. As evidence I offer that socialism has worked well for Catholics and other organized religions for many generations now. At least as well as any system has for other groupings.

    Beyond that, there are arguable traits of socialism woven into the founding fabric of our nation. Our Declaration of Independence defines government as being responsible for (and limited to) the security and happiness(read as wellbeing) of the citizens it serves. A collective entity from the population created to handle that which privately or individually can’t be accomplished for the common good and rights of all. Basically, it’s “everyone, by means of the government, making sure that everyone has at-least this”, with ‘this’ being the rights we agree upon as sacred to all. That is a moderate usage of true socialistic ideology and was a brilliant application by men who wore knickers and wigs in my opinion.

    This doesn’t mean to suggest I’d prefer a full or even necessarily more socialist tendency in America, it means that I believe there were trace elements of socialism implied by our founding fathers with an understanding that they could help to achieve the forming of a more perfect union. Sort of a ‘too much of anything is bad, but in moderation may be healthy and beneficial’ approach.

    I often hear conservatives add negative connotations to ‘entitlement’ programs and noted it in your reply as well. The very fact that the terminology was shifted from social programs to ‘entitlements’ suggests that a change in public perceptions was desired by those who would oppose them being tax-based and government run. But, as a liberal I see these programs (when structured and managed reasonably) as the government doing half of it’s assigned duty–ensuring the wellbeing of the citizens it serves.

    Can these programs become wayward albatrosses? Yes, that’s why they need to be well formed and have transparent oversights. But, just because they can be corrupted doesn’t mean they are by nature corrupt or deserving of any generally negative light being cast upon them.

    In viewing government as an entity of the public (as I do), I also see these programs as “taking care of our neighbors”–as you say we ought to. Conversely, when conservatives attack or propose cuts to ‘entitlement’ programs (with that negative tone attached) while pork and other non-essential wasted spending climbs higher and higher out of control; I view this as government trying to shirk half of it’s responsibility while the greedy few fatten their pockets.

    There’s a gap in our perspectives and beliefs on many issues. That’s both okay and good, it keeps me thinking and I hope does the same for you.

    Perhaps we can come to a happy agreement on one thing here though; if pork waste were eliminated we could both have all that we wanted and believed was right provided for by government, in addition to further tax rate cuts for all…

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  6. By Shawn Bannon | Reply to article


    Sorry I misread you on pay-as-you-go. I read that portion of your original post as an expression of disappointment that the Dems’ effort on that front had failed. A simple matter of miscommunication that I’m glad we’ve cleared up.

    I hope you won’t be offended when I say that I think your position on NASA is simply short-sighted. I understand your point about priorities, but you’re suggesting that we not adjust the bloated budgets of certain programs until we’ve slashed the NASA budget because you believe the needs those programs aim to meet are more important than the advances in technology and understanding that result from NASA’s efforts. The fact is that it is possible – and a growing number of studies (at least the studies not sponsored by the teachers’ unions) suggest – that money is not the problem with our education system and that dumping more money into public education without dramatic reform at the state and local levels is as effective as burning that money. So, where is the federal tax dollar better spent? The issue isn’t whether education or the health of senior citizens is more important than NASA research. The issue is how effectively money dedicated to each is used to actually serve those causes. And that is where I think you and many others are missing the boat.

    Briefly, regarding “corporate welfare” and Wal-Mart, when you write that Wal-Mart, because of its huge profits, is maybe not as “deserving” as some other causes, you are – in effect – suggesting that government support be denied this tax-paying organization because of its success. I would argue the opposite, that this project was particularly important to the people of Arkansas specifically because Wal-Mart has been so successful. When Wal-Mart does well, jobs are created, tax dollars are generated, and more money is funneled into the community through corporate and employee charitable contributions. You call it “corporate welfare” because you see Wal-Mart as the primary beneficiary. I say it’s an infrastructure improvement project that demonstrably supports the economy as well as the local community. I don’t think you’re a crazy liberal attacking Wal-Mart, but I do think your definition of “corporate welfare” does align more closely than you realize with the views of socialist liberals and that you may be too quick to call government support of businesses like Wal-Mart “corporate welfare” when it is anything but.

    Now, speaking of socialist liberals, I didn’t equate liberals with socialists. I talked about a specific group of liberals who are also socialists. I do think most liberals have socialist leanings, but that doesn’t make all liberals socialists.

    Concerning socialism, it is an economic system of bondage and oppression that suppresses innovation, discourages extraordinary effort and has no method for rewarding achievement. It is a gear without teeth, constantly spinning without ever advancing the machine. It has no mechanism by which to adjust to market influences, is easily corrupted and rejects liberty. Because it is so vastly inferior to capitalism, it is doomed to failure.

    Socialism does not work well for organized religion. It works, to some degree, among the clergy, but not among the laity. Still, history shows us that socialism has not always worked even among the clergy; the history of the Catholic Church is rife with stories of corruption and abuses of power. Inquisition, anyone? That doesn’t make the Catholic Church, as an institution, evil – not at all. But it does demonstrate that socialism is only moderately sustainable even among a limited populace composed of clergy that have given over their worldly desires and committed to one unifying set of beliefs.

    I think you’re wrong to associate threads of community and union built into our Declaration of Independence with socialism. The Founding Fathers were absolute capitalists, and they worked very hard in the drafting of that document to define only the loosest of formal ties between the colonies so as to preserve the rights of self-determination inherent to individuals and each colony. They set out to limit the role of the federal government to the greatest possible extent, and they explicitly called for the consent of the governed – something no self-respecting socialist would ever do.

    You are mistaken when you write that the Declaration proclaims the government’s responsibility “for the safety and happiness of the citizens it serves.” What the Declaration says is that the citizenry has the right to form a government “most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” This is a very different thing and a far cry from socialism. It means that the people are responsible for their own safety and happiness but that they have the right to design governmental mechanisms that give them the best opportunity – individually or collectively – to ensure their own safety and happiness. It doesn’t preclude them from banning together as neighbors to help the downtrodden, but it also doesn’t require them to do so.

    You wrote that the Founding Fathers were calling for “a collective entity from the population created to handle that which privately or individually can’t be accomplished for the common good and rights of all. Basically, it’s ‘everyone, by means of the government, making sure that everyone has at-least this,’ with ‘this’ being the rights we agree upon as sacred to all.” That is incorrect. They were declaring their independence from an oppressor who denied them rights that they believed were inalienable, and they were staking claim to their rights as free men to determine for themselves what form of government would offer them – individually and collectively – the best opportunity to realize their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They weren’t writing that the government is responsible for granting you these rights; they were writing that the government doesn’t have the authority to take these God-given rights away from you. This may seem like a mild distinction to you, but it is the difference between socialism and liberty. It is the difference between communism and capitalism. And it is all the difference in the world.

    If you’re looking for the introduction of socialism in our political-economic systems, the only place to start is with The New Deal. And that’s also where we might begin our discussion of entitlements. The New Deal was a short-sighted answer to the failed economic policies that led to the Great Depression. The result was a bloated bureaucracy and future taxpayer liabilities that we would not be able to afford in the long-term because of the changing demographics of a nation that had long since begun to shift from agrarian economics to manufacturing and industry. Additional entitlement programs enacted under Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society plan, while well-intentioned, exacerbated the problem.

    These programs became entitlements when people began to depend on them even before they needed them. When people began planning during their working years for the Social Security income they would have during their retirement, Social Security became an entitlement. It was not intended at its inception to play the role in retirees’ lives that it does today. Medicare was not supposed to become a senior citizen’s only means of securing medical treatment. The original designers, in their short-sightedness, did not adequately plan for the aging of our population and increased life expectancies. And so, we are struggling under the mounting weight of social programs that will soon buckle our knees unless these programs are dramatically reinvented in ways that better align them with America’s brand of capitalism and strip away the ties to socialism.

    At the end of the day, I think the biggest difference between your views and mine is that you think government should provide for us while I think government should get out of the way so we can provide for ourselves and each other. This is a fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives. Liberals assume that the poor, the weak and the lost would be left for dead if it were up to conservatives because we wouldn’t have nearly the degree of government-provided services that exist today. I disagree because I believe that our capacity for achievement and prosperity is matched only by our generosity and the strength of our communities. The proof? According to the Catalogue for Philanthropy, 28 of the 29 most generous states, defined by the average per capita charitable deduction (how much each person gives to charity), are red states – states that voted for Bush in 04, states where conservatives have the strongest foothold. That’s not to say that liberals aren’t at all charitable, just that they (as a group) give less to charity because they assume the government will take care of our neighbors’ ills. And it’s another indication of liberals’ desire to shed personal responsibility.

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  7. By Scott Bannon | Reply to article

    Shawn, just a few quick points to clarify. I said there were probably more deserving places for that money to go with regards to the road widening for Wal-Mart. I’d have to twist it like a pretzel to infer “Wal-Mart doesn’t deserve assistance because of it’s success” from that statement.

    I said there were ‘better’ or more deserving uses for the money. That doesn’t translate into Wal-Mart is not deserving of assistance, only was less deserving at that point and under the circumstances.

    Your points on socialism with specific examples of failure and corruption are accurate, but as I suggested can be linked directly to the people working the system.

    I don’t believe socialism is a better method, I was simply stating that it is a concept, like all forms of government, and inherently neutral. Any success or failure, good or evil that comes of it’s application is a result of the people within, not the system itself.

    You appear to have taken high exception with my suggesting that our founding fathers embraced trace aspects of socialistic ideology. I understand that, a lot of people (conservative and liberals alike) tend to do so. Perhaps it’s a lack of emotional attachment to any specific ideology–capitalism, socialism, communism, Any’isms– that prevents me from reacting the same. I have thoughts on what’s good and bad about each of these concepts, but no emotional connections to any of them.

    Still, to borrow certain elements from any system which would further our ultimate goals seemed ‘ahead of their time’ to me and was stated in praise of their design.

    We simply comprehend the Declaration of Independence differently. This is a long standing wedge in conservative vs. liberal perspectives. Conservatives seem content to reduce government to a corporate sponsor (you yourself have argued in favor and defense of corporate aid from government) with military might.

    Liberals (myself included), tend to believe that falls short of the full intention which also includes the ensuring of individuals’ wellbeing.

    I get that from this line (expanding your own example to add the appropriate context): “ institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them [the governed] shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

    When happiness is read as it’s synonym, wellbeing, which I believe was the intention since I doubt our founding fathers felt government should pay for cable or lap dances (though if they really wanted to keep me happy or get my vote…)–and interpreting “organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect” as “building a government designed to cause or make so”, then it’s clear that ensuring and protecting the wellbeing of citizens [the governed] was indeed intended.

    That idea is further supported within the preamble of the constitution as well, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    I don’t actually think government should provide all for us, I think we should provide for each other when the needs and means exist. As you say, take care of our neighbors. I just happen to believe the best tool for this is government in many instances due to resources and access. Smaller groups and charities are perfectly suited to certain needs, though often more inclined or predisposed to discriminate upon who receives their support. Government is better suited (by design) to others.

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  8. By Shawn Bannon | Reply to article


    You’re still using Wal-Mart’s success as a way of determining whether or not it deserves government aid. By assigning a negative “deserve” factor based on Wal-Mart’s success – by deciding that someone else is more deserving because you think Wal-Mart has been successful enough that it doesn’t deserve aid as much as another taxpayer – you have, indeed, assessed a penalty for that success. Having said that, because the highway improvement project in question is an infrastructure improvement that benefits the local and state economy and, in turn, Wal-Mart, it’s like Clint Eastwood said in Unforgiven: “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.” One of the responsibilities of our elected representatives is to make the best decisions they can about how to use tax dollars to bring about the greatest benefit to we the governed. You can, from 1,000 miles away, second-guess the need for this road work in Arkansas, but Wal-Mart’s success has nothing to do with whether or not the project should have been funded in the manner that you suggest.

    Now, regarding your thoughts on socialism, it doesn’t fail because of the people in the system. It fails because it was an ill-devised system to begin with. It isn’t inherently neutral, as you suggest, because it aims from the outset to take from those who prosper. It retards the socio-economic advancement of those who are ambitious or entrepreneurial while rewarding those whose contributions or productivity are minimal. Intended to transcend human nature, it instead grates against those who are subjugated by the system, destroying souls and breeding corruption.

    I do take exception to your argument concerning the Founding Fathers because I am troubled by such a fundamental misunderstanding of our founding documents. More than that, I am troubled by the idea that you – or any American born in this land of opportunity – claim to have no emotional attachment to the system of values that has made the United States the greatest country in the world. No other country offers its citizens as much opportunity. No other economic system has created as much wealth for a people as has American capitalism. Nowhere else in the world would we consider people who carry cell phones and wear Nike shoes to be living in poverty. But here in America, you can drive through the poorest neighborhood at night, and you’ll see nearly every apartment window lit by the glow of a color television. Sure, there are poor who struggle here in the United States. There are hard-working Americans who find it difficult to put food on the table for their families. But where else in the world would those same people have the opportunities that they have here to lift themselves above their struggles?

    This country, which has provided more opportunity for prosperity than any other, has given you, me and millions of others the chance to make our dreams a reality. But you have no emotional attachment to our particular brands of government, community and commerce? Sadly, too many liberals feel this way. And if conservatives accuse liberals of not being patriots, it’s because of this lack of love of country, not because you or people far more liberal than you are critical of the government’s policies.

    Speaking of conservatives, your assertion that conservatives want to “reduce government to a corporate sponsor,” couldn’t be more wrong. And what I’ve argued is that it is wholly appropriate for government to make infrastructure improvements and other tax-funded investments – with the consent of the governed through the actions of their elected representatives. These government actions are intended to effect the safety and happiness of the governed by creating opportunities for greater prosperity. That is 100 percent in line with the language in our founding documents.

    Your substitution of “wellbeing” for “happiness” is a mistake. Jefferson, Adams and the other signers of the Declaration absolutely meant “happiness” in that government should make it possible for you as a citizen to gain employment, own land and accumulate wealth. They were talking about “happiness,” and they wrote “happiness.”

    You are trying to rewrite the Declaration to fit your agenda by interpreting plain English that only requires interpretation if you are trying to change the meaning. The reason Jefferson didn’t write about a government “designed to cause or make so” the safety and happiness of the citizenry is because that isn’t what was intended. The Founding Fathers were adamant that all responsibility and authority remained with the governed, for whom the government is but a tool used to bring about the greatest likelihood of safety and happiness. The language you quoted from the Constitution is all about national security. It has nothing to do with making sure the sick receive taxpayer-funded healthcare or that senior citizens are guaranteed an income in their retirement.

    Lastly, regarding your belief that the government is the best channel by which to provide support to those in need, I’m afraid you have it backwards, and we will likely always disagree on that. With few exceptions, government programs represent the most inefficient and ineffective means of delivering social services to our citizens. Bloated administrative organizations waste money. Layers of bureaucracy waste time. Consider that the American Red Cross is far better at mobilizing and providing for the wellbeing of citizens in the wake of a disaster than federal, state and local agencies. Consider that children in private schools score significantly higher on standardized tests than public school students despite the fact that the cost to educate a student in most private schools is about half of what taxpayers pay per student in nearby public schools. Liberals don’t seem to mind this inefficiency and waste. In fact, they seem to think that the more you feed the beast, the more it will accomplish. But the evidence doesn’t support that.

    The simple fact is that private agencies are better organized, better focused, better connected to those they serve and, as a result, better able to provide the support required by our neighbors in need. We should do more to encourage a transfer of responsibility back to individuals and those private organizations, fighting discrimination where it occurs on a case-by-case basis instead of assuming a culture of discrimination. That charge, in my experience, tends to be tossed around too indiscriminately by liberals who simply don’t agree with the values espoused by many of those private organizations. Perhaps, instead of pushing for more tax money dedicated to inefficient, ineffective and wasteful government agencies, liberals should dedicate themselves to making a more direct contribution to the wellbeing of those in need by getting involved themselves.

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  9. By Scott Bannon | Reply to article

    Shawn, my stating that Wal-Mart was perhaps less deserving in that situation came not from any negative weight placed upon their success, but rather from more demanding needs in other areas. Their success, despite any rush hour traffic problems to date, is evidence that perhaps areas like education–where Arkansas constantly brings up the rear–had a greater need under the circumstances at that point in time. When faced with more needs than there is funding to supply, one must prioritize. I’m not prioritizing against Wal-Mart or any business/program in some bottom-up chopping block approach, but rather from top-down to assess the most demanding. Yes, I do believe that assistance should always go to the most needy to do the most overall good. We’ll have to agree to just disagree from that point.

    It’s wrong to equate a lack of love for capitalism to a lack of patriotism or love for country. My reasons for loving America may differ from yours or anyone else’s, but that in no way suggests I love my country any less–just as I don’t feel you are any less of a patriot for your reasons.

    Capitalism is an economic–or socioeconomic–system, it is not the underlying values of our nation which I do hold emotional connections with. Perhaps you misread my previous comments on this. My lack of attachment is to the structure, not true values such as freedom, compassion, accountability, charity, tolerance and so on. These are the sort of values that exist in America and with which I am most proud of. This doesn’t mean that I feel financial opportunities and prosperity aren’t of value, nor do I feel anyone who views them as higher values is less patriotic than myself.

    We don’t all need to hold the same perspectives or reasons in order to share an equal love for our country, and shame on those conservatives you spoke of who believe or would suggest otherwise.

    My comments regarding socialism in no way placed a negative light on capitalism. You can argue that one [socialism] isn’t all/inherently bad without saying the other [capitalism] isn’t better. It isn’t an either-or option to me.

    I don’t believe I’m trying to rewrite the Declaration, I believe it is a fundamental and understandable difference in comprehension that exists between conservatives and liberals. If I were to comprehend it more verbatim as you suggest, then I believe I’ve been missing some government sponsored lap-dances for quite a long time now and will be writing my republican senators about this tonight.

    You’re correct that programs and ideas such as national health-care or social security weren’t specifically mentioned in the Constitution. The ‘general Welfare’ of we the people was, and you can interpret that to apply only to security, however the definition of welfare is a) Health, happiness, and good fortune; well-being and b) Financial or other aid provided, especially by the government, to people in need.

    Nowhere in there is security or safety mentioned. If I must read the Declaration verbatim and without interpretation then I insist the same of the Constitution. Knowing that the needs and wants of society would evolve with time, the Constitution formed a foundation for future generations to meet them without the founding fathers having to specifically name them individually from some crystal ball.

    Why is it that when government makes “infrastructure improvements and other tax-funded investments” that primarily or most directly benefit business it’s appropriate and “with the consent of the governed through the actions of their elected representatives”, but when government makes social improvements and other tax-funded investments with the same consent of the governed through the actions of their same elected representatives it’s an unfair ‘entitlement’ of the few paid for by the many?

    Again, I have absolutely no objections to government assisting business to become more prosperous–in fact I believe that’s a basic responsibility of government. However, that same responsibility exists to the general populace as well and my only objections are when the balance tilts disproportionately.

    I agree and said so previously, that private charities are often the best suited outlets for some social needs. Some others, such as the social security program require more oversight and control than could be accomplished with privatization, in my opinion. This doesn’t mean I think things have been well managed as is, simply that I believe the best opportunity exists within government management of some programs and that having these fall under government administration is Constitutional.

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  10. By Shawn Bannon | Reply to article


    You may not think you’ve assessed Wal-Mart a penalty for its success, but in your original piece, you clearly drew a line between Wal-Mart’s profits and whether or not a particular highway improvement project should be funded. Now, having thought more about that, you may not feel that is the way to approach the issue, but I do think your original presentation of the matter is indicative of how many on the left look at similar issues, and it is important to address that mistake.

    Having said that, I have to dispute your argument that the politicians have not appropriately prioritized their use of tax dollars because they’re funding a highway project while the Arkansas education system continues to fail the children in the state’s public schools.

    In Arkansas, only 26 percent of 8th graders are proficient or better in reading, and only 22 percent are proficient or better in math. Those numbers are abysmal. So, when you consider that Arkansas taxpayers pay $6,774 per student per year to send their children to school, if you didn’t know any better you might think that moving money from the highway project that benefited Wal-Mart to the education budget would be wise. But consider that Alaska, the state that spends the most – $16,665 per student – can boast proficiency ratings of just 27 percent and 29 percent for reading and writing, respectively. Is Alaska an anomaly? No. In the District of Columbia, which spends $16,344 per student, those numbers are just 12 percent and 7 percent. And nationwide, the state-by-state averages are just 29 percent and 28 percent. The problem is with education policy, not education budgets. And without dramatic reform, dumping taxpayer dollars into education is not likely to have near the same positive effect on the state of Arkansas as infrastructure improvements like the highway project we’ve been discussing in this thread of posts.

    Now, I don’t want to turn this into a discussion of your patriotism, but I think it is reasonable to question an American’s love of the U.S. if rejects any or all of the most basic principles upon which this nation has been built. You wrote a few nights ago that you have no emotional attachment to any ideology. In your most recent post, you wrote that you have no attachment to structure but that you are proud of values – freedom, compassion, accountability, etc. So you like, maybe even love, certain characteristics that make you feel good, but those things are not unique to the United States. You would find some measure of all of those qualities in Canada, the U.K. and elsewhere in the Western world. What makes the United States different from any other country in the world are our particular structures – our brand of capitalism, our form of representative democracy, the ties between and the borders that separate our states, our systems of laws and justice. If you don’t embrace those structures – if you think they are artificial and somehow unimportant – I don’t see any shame in asking whether what you love is the United States of America or Western culture in a broader sense.

    As far as socialism is concerned, you can strip away everything I’ve written about the superiority of capitalism, and my argument that socialism is inherently oppressive and doomed to failure because it contradicts human nature still hold.

    Now, I don’t get this comment you’ve made (twice) that the establishment by the people of a system of government that creates the greatest likelihood of your safety and happiness somehow equates to government-sponsored lap dances. This is not a guarantee that the government will ensure either your safety or your happiness – whatever happiness means to you. This is simply a proclamation that the governed have the authority to decide for themselves what forms of government and commerce will provide the best opportunities by which they can realize their safety and happiness. In the United States, the governed have chosen to create a unique composite of republicanism and capitalism that have resulted in opportunities for prosperity greater than those experienced by any nation elsewhere in the world. And that prosperity pays for layered measures of security intended to offer the highest possible likelihood of our continued safety. If you are reading the Declaration to mean anything other than this, you should go back and read the writings of some of the men involved in the process of drafting and debating the document in the weeks prior to July 1776.

    Concerning the Constitution, the definition you offer for the word welfare is a modern definition, which has changed dramatically with the advent of certain social programs in the 20th century. The word welfare had absolutely nothing to do with financial or other aid provided by the government when the Constitution was drafted. As for health, happiness and good fortune, the language of the Constitution is to promote – not to provide, but to promote – the general welfare. There is absolutely no contradiction between this promotion of the general welfare of the people and what I’ve written about the creation of government structures designed to bring about the best opportunity for its citizens to prosper.

    You’ve attempted to catch me in a contradiction by insisting upon a strict reading of the Constitution, in essence suggesting that I was guilty of the same kind of rewriting or interpretation that you have done with the Declaration. But there you are wrong. I wrote of security as a concept that summarizes the language in the preamble to the Constitution because it was expedient for me to do so in a commentary that was already very long. But I could have used the verbatim language from the Constitution about insuring domestic tranquility and providing for the common defense, and my point would have been exactly the same and every bit as accurate. The difference between our points of view isn’t a matter of interpretation; it’s the difference between what our founding documents say and what you’d like them to say.

    Now, on to your question about entitlements. I never wrote that entitlement programs created with the consent of the governed are unfair. You are attempting to lump big business with conservatives against the little guy and liberals, I think, but you’ve got it wrong. Conservatives don’t have a problem with entitlements because they’re unfair. We have a problem with entitlement programs because they are bad, ill-fated policy that either ultimately keep down the people they’re intended to lift up or turn into financial liabilities that – long-term –the country cannot afford.

    Unlike you, I do object to government using my tax dollars in order to make businesses more prosperous. However – and this is crucial – I do support tax-funded investments that make the community more prosperous. In other words, I don’t favor giving Wal-Mart $25 million in tax dollars so that the company can simply put more inventory on the shelves. But I would support a $25 million tax-funded infrastructure project that enabled Wal-Mart to open a store or two because the result would be the creation of new jobs, secondary business expansion as a result of increased traffic to the Wal-Mart site, increased tax dollar generation through retail sales and wages, etc. This investment is not designed to make Wal-Mart more prosperous. Wal-Mart’s increased prosperity is simply a happy byproduct. But the government has no responsibility to ensure Wal-Mart’s prosperity or that of any individual taxpayer. Still, individual taxpayers do reap the benefits of opportunities created when government wisely invests tax dollars to make a region more welcoming to businesses like Wal-Mart.

    Finally, regarding Social Security, you would be hard pressed to find a program more illustrative of the points I’ve made in this posting and previously about entitlement programs. Social Security has been poorly managed with little or no care given to the changing demographics that have nearly doomed it to collapse. With every passing year, the gap between the assets available to pay our current liabilities and the assets we’ll need to pay our future liabilities increases dramatically. It is happening at an alarming rate, but because we as a nation have come to expect benefits at a certain age that will afford us a certain level of income – because we have adopted a sense of entitlement – and because seniors make up such a significant block of the voting public, liberal politicians have been able to prey on the fears of retirees and those approaching retirement to the point that conservative politicians will not take the difficult but necessary steps to correct the program’s major problems. Sooner or later, Americans are going to have to come to grips with the reality that an increase in the retirement age in line with longer life expectancy and a significantly slower rate of benefit increases – if not benefit reductions – will be necessary just to maintain the solvency of the program for a period of time. Then, if we still refuse to change the way we think about retirement security, dramatic tax increases will be necessary to avoid a complete Social Security meltdown. You may not like the idea of Social Security privatization, in any form, for any number of reasons. But you can bet that if we don’t institute some form of mandated private retirement savings similar to President Bush’s proposed personal investment accounts – if we don’t make a large-scale shift from Social Security in its current form to a system for retirement security built on personal savings – a lot of Americans alive today will never see a dime of Social Security benefits regardless of how long they live.

    When it was introduced, Social Security was not intended to become the primary source of a person’s income after retirement. It was meant to encourage retirement planning and savings, and it was an attempt to help those who couldn’t put even the most meager meal on the table. Those were desperate times, and the intentions were honorable. But, as always happens with government programs that spend taxpayer money, Social Security became a political football and spiraled out of control. If you, as a politician, fought to have benefits increased, you looked like a hero to your senior constituents. Never mind the future consequences of that increase. If the administration of the program is inefficient and wasteful, who even knows? And who is going to care enough to fix it? After all, those are tax dollars being wasted, not real dollars. Private institutions do not operate like that, but government organizations too often do. That is why Social Security was an ill-fated program from the day it was conceived. That is why entitlement programs, as a rule, are bad long-term public policy.

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