Sunday, February 1, 2009

Opposing Debt in a Debt-Happy Society

If you are like me, you are very upset by the recent actions of the federal government. Under the false pretense of an economic stimulus, they are using the economic downturn to approve yet another nearly trillion dollars of debt! The latest "stimulus" bill consists of a tremendous amount of political pork, some of which is no doubt designed to help the organizations that put the current office holders in power. This is just the latest (and worst) in a series of actions taken by the federal government over the past few years that are unimaginably irresponsible.

We have come to a time in our nation's history when our leaders are actually purporting to be able to partially eliminate a downturn in the market. Markets naturally have ebbs and flows and it is to be expected that every few years there will be another downturn. There are many who are now in power who seem to have put aside the perspective provided by hundreds of years of history to such an extent that they really believe the government is powerful enough to prevent an economic downturn. Do we really want a government that views itself like that?

I believe this attitude has been reflected in recent years by British Prime Minister Gordan Brown who, while not one of our government officials, has received much attention for his reported pronouncement that the cycle of boom and bust had been brought to a halt in his country. Today, instead of admitting he was wrong in talking about the economic downturn, Brown points to the fact that this is a global recession. Brown's claims bring forward the frightening spectacle that in order to truly end boom and bust, governmental action on a global scale may be necessary.

In the meantime, gone are the days when it seemed that our leaders were willing to talk about balancing the budget, cutting spending, and addressing the looming crisis of the depleted social security fund. As national politicians have recently demonstrated all too well, it is very easy for politicians to spend now what will be someone else's debt in the future.

In Oklahoma, state officials have unfortunately given in to the same temptation. Issuing long-term debt is often considered by state officials as a way to handle short-term concerns. For years, Oklahoma officials have issued new debt and have done so by using the excuse, "Everyone else is doing it and we don't have as much debt as they do."

This issue hit especially close to home when agencies' officials testified recently to legislative committees about where they would make cuts if the economic downturn forces them to cut their budgets by 5%. Those agencies burdened with long-term debt simply point to the fact that they cannot cut their bond payments, and in fact, a 5% cut might be more like a 10% to 15% cut in discretionary revenue. In other words, as we have gone through time and more debt has been added to the state government, the ability to shrink government becomes inhibited.

This is why I have maintained and will continue to maintain a strict policy of voting against all new issuance of debt.

No comments: