Paul Jacob

A difficult year lies ahead. The country is not only broke, it is deeply mired in debt. Major companies have gone belly-up, and have been bailed out . . . or not. Credit is tight. Go figure.

Our federal government remains committed to borrowing or printing about $7.7 trillion dollars to hide reality from us, but we still know. We’re in trouble.

We also ought to know that after this initial orgy of spending is over, Barack Obama and the Congress are not going to cut spending back. Nor will the federal government become thrifty and accountable. At least, not by design.

Moreover, regarding our debt, when Social Security, Medicare, unfunded worker pensions and other commitments are included, the burden upon us swells to outrageous proportions. Many of the chickens are already on their way home, in anticipation of roosting. Social Security goes from the black into the red in 2017.

Or, with a depression in between now and then, that “then” may be sooner than predicted.

As an optimist, I know we can solve these problems. We can make adjustments to prepare for future commitments. We could, that is, if we were dealing with reasonably sensible people. We’re not. We’re dealing with politicians.

We the people are effectively out of the loop. Politicians don’t listen to us. Especially at the federal level.

Witness the pay raise that congressmen of both parties have nabbed — by not voting on it. (The cost of living adjustment is automatic, unless Congress says otherwise.) After hitting all-time lows in public approval ratings and regulating up the largest fiscal mess since the Great Depression, our congressmen are raising their own pay beginning in January. With CEOs schlepping up to Congress pledging to take one buck a year, members of Congress will make $174,000. Majority and minority leaders in both houses make even more, $188,100 per year; Nancy Pelosi makes nearly $30,000 more than that.

Now, I don’t begrudge people who make a ton of money. Or even several tons. But yes, I begrudge congressmen the salaries we pay. Not the dollar figure, no; it’s the fact that we are not getting what we pay for. We are not being well served.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.