Parochialism is tearing this country apart. We desperately need to cut the federal government down to something taxpayers can actually afford, and while the sequester doesn’t do that it does at least represent substantial spending reductions.
But “not in my back yard” say members of Congress, to the surprise of exactly nobody.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) recently asked the Army Corps of Engineers’ top civilian official if she had a way to steer the looming cuts within the agency, making the case that President Barack Obama can’t boost exports by underfunding water projects along the Mississippi River. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has been huddling with top Navy officials at the Pentagon and in the Capitol about how to protect thousands of jobs at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and related contractors.
And Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) has been sounding the alarm about potential cuts to his state’s White Sands Missile Range and two national laboratories, which help manage the nation’s nuclear stockpile.
The panicked pleas from Capitol Hill offer a reminder about one big reason why Congress has failed to tame the $16.5 trillion debt: Politicians may talk a lot about tightening Washington’s belt, but they get the blame if federal pork stops flowing back home.
That last is the key to this problem. It’s not really the politicians who are to blame. It’s we voters who hold this attitude – it’s we voters who get upset if we don’t get money for our bike paths and dog parks and green energy projects – and the politicians are merely pandering to it.
We voters are schizophrenic. We all say we want balanced budgets, but we’re not willing to pay higher taxes or weather spending cuts to get there. So instead we run massive deficits and gripe cliched things about “broken” Washington.