By ROSS DAY
When writing this column, it sure makes things easier when I can start off with a good cliché to lead me into the topic I want to address. “The more things change, the more things stay the same,” is the perfect cliché to describe the last two years of “leadership” in the federal government.
Remember, in 2008, in the wake of a financial meltdown, rising unemployment, out-of-control government spending and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we were promised “change” by Barack Obama and incoming members of Congress, including our own representative Kurt Schrader.
Flash forward to 2010. The United States is in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression, national unemployment is holding steady at a whopping 9.5 percent (it would be higher than that, but for all the people who have just stopped looking for work), government spending has become even more out of control, what with the government bailouts and the takeovers of the banking, automobile and health care industries, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are still raging. So much for “change.”
The problem for the Congress – including Kurt Schrader – and the President is that they failed to deliver the “change” they promised. Instead, many have argued, they have actually made things worse. In fact, many Democratic political consultants are advising Democrats nationally not to run on their record, but instead go back to bashing President Bush (who parenthetically, has not been president of the United States for two years). Expect to hear a lot of “Bush-Mongering” from Democrats over the next several weeks.
But congressional Democrats have another trick up their sleeve. If they cannot scare voters (by “Bush-Mongering”) into voting for them, they are going to try to buy off the voters.
It is no secret that many states, including Oregon, are in dire financial straits. As a result, states like Oregon have been forced to make across-the-board cuts to all services, including education and some services to the needy.
Well, this week the Congress has called itself back into session to pass another bailout – this time a bailout for the states. The price tag for the American taxpayer? A mere $26 Billion!
Expect Kurt Schrader to return from the special session promoting his vote on this bailout package. Expect him to expect a heroes’ welcome as he brings money home from Washington, D.C. to “save the children.” Expect to hear a lot about this vote from Kurt Schrader in the upcoming election.
But there is a problem with this bailout, and Kurt Schrader knows it. The problem is called “roll-up costs” and is the reason why so many states are in the predicaments they are in these days.
Think of it this way: say it costs you $10 to fill up your tank with gas today, but you only have $9. Tomorrow, that same fill-up is going to cost you $11, but again you are only going to have $9. That $1 dollar increase is called – in government budget terms – the “roll-up costs.”
Now let me explain why this $26 billion bailout package really won’t solve any problems, but will in fact make the problems our states – including Oregon – are facing even worse.
Back to the gas-tank analogy. You need $10 to fill up your tank, but you only have $9. The government comes in and gives you $1 so you can fill up your tank. The next day, however, you need another $2 from the government in order to fill your tank. Where is that money going to come from? In reality, what you should have done is lowered the amount of gas you needed to $9, which you would have been able to afford without any government help.
And that is the problem with the bailout that Schrader supported. The bailout will help Oregon fill a budget shortfall in the short-term, but what happens in the next budget cycle, when the cost of those same government services will increase as a result of “roll-up costs”?
What ought to be happening today is not filling in a shortfall, but decreasing the amount of money the government is going to need not only now, but also into the future. But that makes for bad politics – Schrader and the rest of his Democratic colleagues are trying to win the elections in November, they are not trying to do the right thing. Imagine if the Congress and the president tried to do the right thing in this circumstance, now that would be a change.
When you think about it logically, all Kurt Schrader is doing by voting for this bailout package is passing off the problem to the next generation. He is curing the symptom, not preventing the disease. That is not how he should be dealing with these budget problems.
Kurt Schrader and his colleagues in the Congress should take to heart this cliché: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Ross Day lives in Keizer. He is executive director and general counsel of Common Sense for Oregon.