By Richard E. Noble
It seems that when this old buddy of mine was a child his dad took him and his siblings for a ride to the ice cream parlor that was on the outskirts of his hometown. This event, of course, got the kids all excited. The father, in order to keep the kids occupied, would ask the children to perform the same task every week. "Now kids, I want you to be thinking of what flavor ice cream cone you are each going to order. We don't want to keep the lady waiting when we get there. She is always very busy."
The kids immediately went into their flavor discussions.
"I'm going to get a strawberry ... no, no I think I'll get a black cherry."
"I'm going to get a frozen pudding."
"Ouu, ouu, I'm going to get orange pineapple or maybe a fudge ripple."
"I think I'll get banana or maybe cherry vanilla."
All the way out to the ice cream stand the kids jabbered and discussed their possible choices enthusiastically. When the car finally stopped at the much anticipated destination, all the kids rushed out of the car and followed daddy up to the window. When pop got to the window, without the slightest hesitation and no consultation whatsoever, he placed his order.
"We'll have four vanilla please."
All the kids frowned and sulked as they licked their vanilla ice cream cones all the way home in silence.
Every time I think of that story I laugh. I'm sure it was a traumatic experience for my friend Eddie and his brothers and sisters, but I can see where the dad was coming from also. If all four children didn't get the same thing they would be arguing and fighting all the way home. The car would be a mess; the kids would all be screaming and crying; the whole trip would end up a disaster.
And this all brings me to our local County Commissioners.
A while back a fellow came to the County Commission meeting and accused the commissioners of "earmarking" the County Budget. This was rather humorous. Three of our five County Commissioners didn't even know what earmarking was. The County Planner had to explain the principle of earmarking to them. I think our citizen critic was watching too much C-span
Earmarking is what goes on in Washington D. C. and Tallahassee and it is the term used for the technique by which Congressmen and Senators secretly encode their home pet pork-barrel projects into the various legislations. It is really a very complicated process on the Federal level and it takes a budget large enough to hide things. Recently a group of young journalists have been studying the process and it has been no easy effort to unmask all the inveiglement and deceptive practices.
Most pork-barrel spending is money that is spent here at home - minus whatever was not outright stolen along the way. If it is cut from the budget what will happen to the money?
The pork-barrel critics think that by cutting pork and even domestic spending somehow the government will end up with a surplus and all the faithful taxpayers will then get their money back.
Well surpluses don't happen very often. Bill Clinton claimed a surplus in 1998 of $69.2 billion. This was the first supposed surplus in over forty years. But if the $99.2 billion Social Security Surplus gained from the 1983 increase in the Social Security tax is subtracted, Clinton actually had a 30 billion dollar deficit. In 1983 an increase in the Social Security tax was mandated to compensate for the future flood of baby boomers. In 1999 when Clinton claimed a $124.6 billion surplus, it seems that the actual surplus was 1.9 Billion after the baby boomer Social Security Surplus of $123.7 billion was subtracted. The most significant surplus in the Clinton years was in 2000 when an on budget surplus of $86.6 billion was actually achieved. Of course Clinton added in the old folk’s pension once again and came up with a surplus of over $230 Billion.
All this surplus money then led George the Lesser to decide that the federal government had too much money, so he sent the old timer's Social Security money to all of his rich buddies - sort of a CEO bonus plan. Now, once again they can scream and yell about cutting benefits to the old folks.
We have two political philosophies today. We have the tax and spend Democrats and the borrow and spend Republicans. Actually the borrow and spend Republicans are much worse economically than the tax and spend Democrats ever dreamed of becoming. Ronald Reagan borrowed and spent enough to increase our National Debt to double what all of the previous presidents from George Washington forward had accomplished. Bush the Major doubled the debt that Ronny had amassed and now Bush the Lesser is trying his best to out borrow and spend his dad.
So it looks to me that whether we have a Democrat or a Republican spending will continue. There will be no "four vanilla" type thinking or simple solutions. It will be every flavor under the rainbow and the squabblers will squabble endlessly. It is inevitable; our history assures it. And if the spending is going to continue I would rather have it spent on pork here at home than fat and pure lard abroad.
Richard E. Noble is a Freelance Writer and has been a resident of Eastpoint for around thirty years. He has authored two books: "A Summer with Charlie" which is currently listed on Amazon.com and "Hobo-ing America" which should be listed on Amazon in the not too distant future. Most recently he completed his first novel "Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother" which will be published soon.