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Still not Serious About Spending

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

In the self-declared “Little City” where I live, a sign went up recently. It says that Falls Church plans to build one of those radar signs to alert drivers if they’re going too fast. The project is being funded by the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” better known as the Stimulus.

And so it goes.

Just across the Potomac River, Congressional leaders are supposedly grappling with ways to trim our country’s massive debt, some $14.3 trillion and counting. Meanwhile, already-approved stimulus programs roll merrily along, regardless of whether they’ll actually create any jobs.

Think of it this way: A new radar sign might compel drivers to slow down. But it won’t “create” any jobs, because it will be installed by a local government team that would have been getting paid anyway. And wasn’t “creating jobs” supposed to be the whole point?

In recent days, President Obama has held a series of news conferences ahead of his meetings with Congressional Republicans. He repeatedly says he wants a big agreement that would trim trillions from the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt over the next decade.

Yet in a recent meeting, Sen. Mitch McConnell asked the vice president: “How much does the Biden plan actually cut from next year’s discretionary spending budget?” The answer: $2 billion.

Well, that probably seems like a lot. $2 billion is more money than most of us could even imagine earning or spending. But in this context, it’s nothing. “According to the Congressional Budget Office, our total federal deficit for 2010 was approximately $1.3 trillion. That means that every day, the government will accumulate an average of $3,561,643,835.62 in additional debt. [$1.38 trillion / 365 = (approx. $3.56 billion per day)],” the Web site reports.

So trimming $2 billion from next year’s budget saves us about 12 hours of borrowing. That means that we’d be in the clear on, say New Year’s morning. But by the time most of the college football bowl games had kicked off, we’d be borrowing again, and would continue to do so for the rest of the year.

Meanwhile, the president seems more focused on playing politics than on outlining potential savings. In a recent news conference, he complained that the owners of corporate jets ought to shell out more in taxes. He liked the talking point so much he repeated it six times.

But the president is thinking in terms of millimeters, while our national debt problem would be better measured in megatons.

In 2010, gross domestic product was just over $14 trillion, meaning our accumulated debt is roughly the value of everything our country produced last year. There isn’t $14 trillion to tax out of the economy, even if the government wanted to try to do so. And no economy would grow if its government tried to do so, anyway.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this year told The Hill that the debt ceiling must be increased in order to “to pay our bills we already accrued.” But he’s missing the point -- we can’t make good on past unfunded promises by agreeing to borrow more.

The senate didn’t pass a budget last year. As for this year, “There’s no need to have a Democratic budget in my opinion,” Reid told FOX News. “It would be foolish for us to do a budget at this stage.” Instead the Senate is serving as the graveyard of ideas.

In May it voted against Paul Ryan’s deficit reduction plan, which had passed the House. It also voted -- 97-0 -- against President Obama’s budget. It’s also expected to vote down Cut, Cap and Balance, another House-passed attempt to rein in spending.

Meanwhile, the “Stimulus” marches on, stimulating very little in a country with higher than nine percent unemployment. A massive entitlement, ObamaCare, looms in our future. And the Baby Boom generation produces more retirees daily, with fewer workers to pay for their Social Security and Medicare.

As long as “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” projects are going on, we’ll know our leaders aren’t serious about reducing the national debt.

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