The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

August 29, 2010

ZACHARY HUBBARD | A foundation for common-sense government

Zachary Hubbard

— Thank God there are still a few common-sense public servants in the U.S. government. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates is one of them. 

Citing mission redundancy, Gates recently announced plans to shutter the U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., and eliminate two large Department of Defense staff elements.

Congress was quick to cry foul, especially Virginia lawmakers who stand to lose more than 3,000 jobs in their state. 

Unfortunately, Gates plans to retire in 2011. It’s too bad he won’t be around to teach some of his Cabinet colleagues a lesson or two about the new reality of government finance.

The days of unbridled spending are over. Gates gets it! 

Federal budgets must be slashed and he wants to make the cuts on his terms.

Politicians feeding at the taxpayer-funded pork trough get it, too. They just haven’t admitted it yet.

Congress is like a compulsive spender with a stack of credit cards. Even though members know they’re going to file for bankruptcy in the morning, they still go out on the town for one last wild night in plastic paradise. Congress will ride the “Pork Barrel Express” to the end of the line.

Congressional fearmongers on both sides of the aisle tell American taxpayers the other party is out to get them: They’re going to raise taxes; they’re after your Social Security; they’re going to federalize your 401(k) plans; death panels are going to ration your medical care; they’re destroying the republic – and similar Chicken Little rants.

Thomas Jefferson said, “When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”

If Jefferson was correct, then we are living in one of the most tyrannical periods of U.S. history.    

Fear is the preferred weapon of feckless politicians, desperately clinging to power. It’s used effectively by those on both sides of the aisle.

Isn’t it about time Congress started fearing voters for a change? 

Lawmakers don’t care about you and me. If they did, they wouldn’t pass legislation the majority of the public opposes; they wouldn’t pass bills they know can’t be paid; they would read bills before signing them; they wouldn’t fund wars they claim to oppose; and they wouldn’t allow the Treasury Department to recklessly print U.S. currency with nothing to back it.

Unfortunately, too many Americans buy into the fear. 

Like the scared politicians trying to cling to power, these citizens cling to an illusion the politicians have meticulously managed over the past 30 years. The illusion says you can have it all and never have to pay for it. Those who subscribe to it believe they have an inalienable right to high-paying jobs, free health care, free medications, free education, home ownership, cheap energy and cheap food on the table. 

The list goes on ad nauseam.

As the late comedian George Carlin described this illusion, “It’s called the American dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

The illusion has finally reached a new crescendo in recent months. If things turn bad, the government will bail you out – bailouts for banks, mortgages, teachers’ unions and, in the near future, probably credit cards. 

Free government rides create a life without work or risks – what a delightful prospect. 

Pure illusion!    

Here’s some breaking news: Medicare is broke. Medicaid is broke. The Social Security Trust Fund is in the red because Congress has been spending from the so-called “lock box.” The United States is broke. It is so bad that if the Department of Defense budget were reduced to $1 per year, our nation would still be bankrupt. 

We the taxpayers will foot the bills to make things right.

Our elected officials on Capitol Hill must learn to manage budgets just as responsible citizens do. Every piece of legislation should have a price tag attached and a description of how it will be paid for.

A handful of Republicans in Congress have advocated this concept.

We also need to put a price tag on government policies for border control, import tariffs, education and many others.

“How much is it going cost?” should be the voters’ battle cry. 

It’s time to face facts: Medicare and Medicaid cannot afford to provide unlimited, state-of-the-art medical care.

Funding these programs at current levels will require tax increases.

Few politicians will admit it.

Social Security benefits for those nearing retirement and for future generations must be reduced. What we were promised all along was a lie. 

Your house will probably never again be part of your investment portfolio. Electricity is going to get more expensive, as are the fossil fuels that heat our homes and power your vehicles.

The government can no longer keep these prices artificially low. We can no longer afford to allow presidents to lead us down the pathway to open-ended wars. We can no longer afford to tear up foreign countries and then spend years rebuilding them.

As mid-term elections approach in November, what we need is an honest, common sense discourse about out-of-control government spending and the policies behind it.

But we’re not going to get it. 

We’re just going to get more fearmongering from Republicans and Democrats alike.

Americans really do need “change we can believe in,” but it must be change driven by reason, not fear.

One way to effect such change is at the polling places. 

If Americans would only stop re-electing incumbents and hold elected officials accountable, we could begin to change our broken political system. 

No matter how good he or she may be, do not re-elect!

When you go to the polls in November, dwell on the old medical tenet, “First, do no harm.” 

It’s just common sense!

Zachary Hubbard is a freelance writer residing in Upper Yoder Township. He is a member of The Tribune-Democrat Reader Advisory Committee.