Jobs & Economy1 June 2011

Notes From Norm: Wednesday June 1st: But…

The most dangerous word in the English language when it comes to cutting spending and balancing our nation’s budget is “But”.

Or, more accurately, the most dangerous phrase comes in the form of the following disclaimer:  “It is imperative that we balance our nation’s budget, BUT…”

From every corner of America – people from every walk of life – politicians all along the ideological spectrum – interest groups representing every conceivable issue – there is the generic assumption that We, the People, believe it is imperative that we balance our nation’s budget.


The “But” represents the simple fact that is borne out in nearly every single poll conducted in this country by every reputable polling organization:  Americans believe we are the path to fiscal ruin and we must balance our budget and cut spending but..

…just not our program.  Or, the projects we believe are important. 

The elections of November 2010 sent a powerful message from voters to politicians that the spending spree that was fueled by expanding government programs advocated by the President and his liberal allies in Congress needed to come to an end.

As the GOP was swept into control of the U.S. House – gaining more seats in the U.S. Senate – control of more State Legislatures and Governors mansions – the message from American voters was not lost on them.

Immediately, throughout America, and in Washington, D.C., conservative politicians, emboldened by the mandate they received from voters, began to initiate a series of measures to cut spending and begin balancing budgets in their respective states, as well as the federal government.

At about the same time as measures were being enacted, cuts being proposed and efforts undertaken to restore fiscal sanity to state and federal budgets, those who lost their power and nearly monopolistic control of the public purse, began the predictable drumbeat about how spending cuts and balancing the budget were important…

….but not if (fill in the blank) program was going to be impacted.

Whether it was Medicare or Medicaid, ObamaCare or any of the other big government spending programs that are draining our national treasury dry, Liberal politicians were all in favor of balancing the budget and cutting spending as long as the programs they support are not touched.

It might make Conservatives feel better if it were only the Liberals who had this philosophy and reacted this way to proposals to reduce government spending and balancing the budget.

Unfortunately, it’s not. 

When Paul Ryan and others, including those who represent the philosophical underpinnings of the Tea Party Movement, put forward proposals to dramatically change the fundamental role of government in our lives by making draconian cuts to our nation’s federal budget, they aren’t applauded or appreciated for their willingness to offer solutions.

They are subjected to ridicule, condemnation and outright rejection – as though their ideas and motives should be questioned as to whether they understand government’s “sacred social compact” with the American people.

To be sure, there are those conservative voices who have taken the position that there remain “sacred cows” when it comes to government spending.  They will argue that government’s primary responsibility is to protect its citizens.  While I agree with that point of view, it’s not reasonable to suggest that every area of government spending needs to be put on the table – except those types of programs.

Whether it’s a “sacred social compact” or a “sacred cow”,  it’s time to accept the fact everyone’s ox is going to have to be gored if we are to make any impact on our nation’s fiscal future.

And, so as to not point fingers without looking in the mirror myself, I have my own confession to make.

A little over a month ago – in response to a proposal by a fellow Republican that we ought to gut foreign aid programs as a way to rein in federal government spending, I took the position that we absolutely need to balance our budget and cut federal government spending but..

…that we should protect the investments we make in foreign aid programs that benefit our country.

I should have been clear-if we protect one program, we sacrifice something else.

But.  It’s the kind of three-letter word that makes four-letter words pale in comparison.

Somehow, somewhere, the collective “We, the People” must marshall the courage to do what we are demanding our politicians do:  Make the tough decisions and toughchoices to put our nation back on a path to fiscal health.

That means for every one of us who wants to balance our budget – but believes a program we support must be spared – there must be a bullet that needs to be bit even harder.

There can be no area of the federal budget – or state budget – that can be taken off the table.  There has to be a collective will among the American people that we’ve avoided the tough decisions for far too long.

The can’s been kicked down the road long enough, and it’s now hit a Dead End road.

There can no longer be any if, ands – or buts.  We need to stop the spending.  We need to balance the budget. 

And, those tough choices  don’t begin and end with politicians in Washington, D.C., or the state capitols across America.

Those tough choices begin – and end – with We, the People.


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