Redstone Review VP
PUEBLO — I awoke in a cold sweat one night last week. I’d had a terrible dream about federal spending cuts vs. tax increases on millionaires.
What made the dream terrible and brought on the cold sweat, however, wasn’t the still-rotten state of the economy or the trench warfare each party has adopted with regard to how to make things right. Nor was it the “occupy” protestors across the nation, or all the millionaires and corporations that pay no income taxes.
Rather, it was that, in the dream, I found myself agreeing with Bill O’Reilly. Yes, that’s right. I was agreeing the often-obnoxious Bill O’Reilly, the guy who tells other people to shut up rather than acknowledge that their opinions are equal to or in any way superior to his own.
I had seen him on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart that night. Stewart had previously visited with O’Reilly on the latter’s TV show to debate O’Reilly’s positions and tactics. In return, O’Reilly came to Stewart’s house. Naturally, O’Reilly stuck to his guns regarding his conservative viewpoint on issues, a viewpoint I disagree with on both fundamental and practical grounds, though I might be willing to listen more closely if his proselytizing weren’t so rabid.
But he did say something that, on reflection after awakening that night, I could and still can agree with, if only in part. He said he would oppose raising taxes on anyone until the waste had been taken out of government spending. I do not oppose raising taxes when it’s necessary to accomplish great public good. In fact, I’d much prefer doing that, with perhaps a sunset on those taxes when they’re no longer needed, to what has become, since the presidency of Ronald Reagan, at least, the Republican habit of financing things through increasing the debt and then relying on a robust economy and trickle down economics to pay the debt off.
The result of the latter strategy is the recession we’re climbing out of so painfully. What I agree with is that there is a lot of waste in federal spending (remember not so many years ago when it was discovered that only $1 in every $12 spent on the federal welfare program ever reached a welfare recipient, or the $200 toilet seats the federal government was buying).
The General Accounting Office, the independent watchdog of federal spending, released a report last March that estimated we could save more than $300 billion annually by removing duplication, overlap and outright wasteful practices from federal programs and agencies. An analyst with the Heritage Foundation came to the same conclusion regarding the amount that can be trimmed from federal spending, though the ways he lists for achieving those savings doesn’t match exactly what the GAO report said.
Years ago, when I first left the field of journalism and entered the teaching profession, I used to require my students to read a Pulitzer Prize-winning feature story written in the 1970s by a journalist whose editor told him to find out just how big the federal government was at that time. It was during the Carter administration. The journalist received great cooperation from that administration, its agencies, Congress and federal government officials at all levels. He wrote an article detailing much of the spending the federal government did at that time.
But in the end, all of the facts led him to one inescapable conclusion: no one really knows exactly how big the federal government is and exactly how much it spends annually, especially in certain areas.
Now, if that was true under Jimmy Carter, it’s still true today, and since every president since Carter has expanded the size of the federal government and the money it spends (except, perhaps for Clinton in his second term), I’d bet even more waste can be rooted out.
In fact, I’d put money on the proposition that, if we really looked into all the federal nooks and crannies, we could root out around $500 billion a year in federal waste – without raising taxes and without cutting Social Security or Medicare.
Reforming those two programs, however, could probably make them more efficient, more solvent and self-sustaining in the long run. And if you recall, both Obama and McCain, and therefore their respective parties, ran on pledges of eliminating earmarks, those little (a million here, a million there) nickel-and-dime additions to major spending bills that are great for scoring re-election points while spending what tax revenues there are on projects that often amount to bridges to nowhere.
So, there I stand, side by side with Bill O’Reilly on this one point, which I will shout to both Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike: If you want my support, start cutting federal waste NOW!
If you don’t, then you’d better prepare to answer to me and to many others when we ask you to explain why you can’t, or worse, won’t. That way at least we can separate the incompetents among you from the actual criminals – before we throw both groups out of office.
Richard A. Joyce is an associate professor in the mass communications department at Colorado State University-Pueblo. He is an award-winning journalist who served as managing editor, and subsequently editor and general manager of the Cañon City Daily Record during the years 1988-1994. The opinions he expresses in this column are strictly his own, and do not represent in any way the views of anyone else at the Redstone Review or at Colorado State University-Pueblo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Back to Top