Friday, October 05, 2007

Finding our way...

Being raised on a farm with a few dairy cows, extended family vacations were out of the question. The cows had to be milked before we left, and milked when we got home, so the best we could hope for was the occasional day trip. Sometimes, looking out the back window of the old station wagon at an unfamiliar road, one of the kids would ask where we were, and how long it would be before we arrived at our destination. Dad’s standard reply was, “We’re lost, but we’re making good time”.

His answer was purely for entertainment purposes. He has to this day an uncanny sense of direction in both travels and life, so I’ve never had to worry about the final outcome of his decisions. I cannot, however, say that I have the same confidence in our government. The people at the wheel seem to be reluctant in accepting that we have made some wrong turns over the years, and they are equally reluctant to make the necessary changes.

Over the past several years, our federal government has been printing, borrowing and spending money at an alarming rate. And while the feds, using some creative book keeping, claim a debt of around $9 trillion, the U.S. Comptroller General at the Government Accountability Office puts the actual debt at $59.1 trillion. That amounts to over $516,000.00 of debt for every household in the United States.

A lot of politicians would have you believe that the answer is to simply ignore the debt, or raise taxes to cover the debt. But we can’t simply ignore this debt, and raising enough taxes to pay the debt would cost every household over $30,000.00 a year for the next 75 years. Hardly a move in the right direction, do you think?

85% of this debt is the result of entitlement programs. Federal retirement plans, Social Security and Medicare, all seemingly affordable programs when they began, now threaten to consume the income of both current and future generations. Taxpayers face the possibility of supporting many retirees longer than they were employees. Social Security, when enacted, enjoyed the luxury of 16 workers putting in for each person that was drawing out. We are fast approaching a ratio of only 2 contributors for each benefactor. Medicare was adopted with the promise that if workers would contribute 25 cents per week, they would never have to pay a medical bill after retirement. We haven’t just made a wrong turn, we’re completely off of the road.

Here in Indiana, our legislators decided a while back to satisfy their insatiable hunger for our money with an ever increasing property tax. When the tax bills became so big that homeowners could no longer pay them, one county placed armed guards in the assessors’ office for protection against irate taxpayers. Wouldn’t you think our lawmakers might suspect that a change of course might be in order? Well, some of them did, and suggested that we could add some more taxes elsewhere in order to lower property taxes, at least for awhile. But that hardly constitutes a change in direction. It’s more of a “close your eyes, step on the gas, and hope no one is watching” solution.

I don’t have the sense of direction that my Father has, but I do know that if we are going to get this nation and state back on the right track, we are going to have to return to the values personal responsibility that made this country great in the first place. We have to stop expecting the federal, state and local government to supply our every need from cradle to grave. Stop asking them to entertain you and your children, stop asking them to fund your retirement, and tell the politicians if they want to make a donation to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, they should make it from their own pocket. That would be a move in the right direction.

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