Squeal like a pig


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Let’s take a trip into the future, looking past Tuesday’s midterm election.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that, come Tuesday, the Republicans take both houses, in a stunning landslide not seen in more than a century. Let’s also assume that the changes in Congress are going to point decidedly away from the recent liberal policies of large government (by both parties). Instead, every indication suggests that the new Congress will lean heavily towards a return to the principles of small government, low taxes, and less regulation.

These assumptions are not unreasonable. Not only do the polls indicate that one or both of the houses of Congress will switch from Democratic to Republican control, the numerous and unexpected primary upsets of established incumbents from both parties — as well the many protests over the past year by large numbers of ordinary citizens — make it clear that the public is not interested in half measures. Come January, the tone and direction of Congress is going to undergo a shocking change.

Anyway, based on these assumptions, we should then expect next year’s Congress to propose unprecedented cuts to the federal budget, including the elimination of many hallowed programs. The recent calls to defund NPR and the Corporation for Public Broadcastings are only one example.

When Congress attempts this, however, the vested interests that have depended on this funding for decades are not going to take the cuts lightly. Or to put it more bluntly, they are going to squeal like pigs, throwing temper tantrums so loud and insane that they will make the complaints of a typical three-year-old seem truly statesman-like. And they will do so in the hope that they will garner sympathy and support from the general voting public, thereby making the cuts difficult to carry out.

The real question then is not whether the new Congress will propose the cuts required to bring the federal government under control, but whether they, as well as the public, will have the courage to follow through, to defy the howls from these spoiled brats, and do what must be done.

The legislative situation with NASA over the summer and fall might give us a hint about whether the next Congress will have the courage to make the cuts that are necessary. In this case Obama actually proposed doing something close to what conservatives have dreamed of for decades: take NASA (and the government) out of the business of building rockets and spacecraft and pass it over to the private sector.

Moreover, despite the strong dislike the right has for Obama and his leftist policies, many conservative pundits both inside and outside of the space activist community publicly supported the President in this effort.

Nonetheless, these policies were not accepted by Congress. Instead, the legislative body passed an authorization bill that requires NASA to build a new heavy-lift rocket and the manned capsule to go with it. Congress did this partly for national security reasons, but mostly because they wanted to protect the jobs in Houston, Florida, and elsewhere that NASA provides, and thus bring home the bacon to their constituents. And they did this because those constituents had squealed at them about the threatened loss of funding.

In other words, elected officials from both parties had teamed up to authorize this pork-laden program in order to keep the pigs quiet. In other words, NASA’s legislative history this past year does not give us an encouraging view of the future. It appears that Congress will give us the same-old same-old, when asked.

Let’s consider another issue, the recently passed healthcare bill. The public clearly didn’t want it. Moreover, polls continue to show that a large majority wants the bill defunded and repealed.

Many Republicans, both those campaigning for office as well as those in office right now, have firmly said that though they intend to introduce bills in the new Congress to repeal the bill, they recognize that this action probably will be a wasted effort, as they expect Obama to veto them. Instead, these Republicans say that if they gain control of Congress, they will start by first denying the program any funds.

But will they actually defund the healthcare bill, as they promise? Based on past history, no one should be optimistic. In 1994 the Republican Congress tried to severely cut the federal budget, including eliminating some long established programs. Rather than agree to these cuts, President Clinton shut the government down, figuring correctly that the public reaction would work to his favor. The resulting uproar over delayed benefit checks and closed national parks forced Congress to back down. Though Congress was able to successfully balance the budget for most the remaining years of the Clinton administration, the majority of the most significant cuts were never enacted.

When the new Republican Congress takes over in January, we should expect President Obama to emulate Clinton and do something similar, vetoing any spending bill that does not fund his healthcare plan, thereby forcing the government to shut down.

It is then that the pigs will really begin to squeal. And the noise will be far louder than when Obama tried to shut down NASA.

Will the new Congress be able to stand up to these squeals, or wimp out like the Republicans in the mid-1990s?

More importantly, will the voting public join the squealing pigs, as they did in the 1990s, to demand these programs be funded? Or will the public this time finally grow up and accept the fact that the federal government is bankrupt and simply can’t afford to give money away to every Tom, Dick, and Harry?

This is the fundamental question. And we will find out the answer sometime within twelve months.

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4 comments

  • Kelly Starks

    two thoughts.
    You’re pork, is a voting blocks cherished “investment” in their community.

    Obama is nowhere near as cagy as Clinton was. Hes more likely to whin and push for even more extream stuff, undercutting his public support.

    course the surviving dems in congress will also be the most highly biased toward the left (every other votnig block is voting republican).

    should be colorfull.

  • I’m curious if you could let me know exactly what the midterm elections could possibly imply pertaining to free college awards. It seems the Republicans will certainly start looking to cut everything they could cut which in all probability means scholarships for education. I don’t know how these people believe this nation will ever be competitive, if the actual price of higher education continues to climb, but grants get harder to obtain. It is horrifying to consider I am in debt $40,000 or higher and not knowing if I can possibly get a job after I graduate in this tight economy.

  • Paul Hosea

    Have you ever considered why college costs have gone up so much, Valentine? It seems the more the federal government spends on higher education, the less affordable it becomes.

    I suspect that the constantly rising costs of college has nothing to do with the true cost of education. These are the true reasons, I suspect….

    1. Institutions have continually had to broaden their mission, to comply with demands from parents and students. These are demands that would not have been made had those same parents and students been exposed to their true cost. Counseling, Athletics, Political Activism, Placement Assistance, etc. all cost money. Federal education assistance shields parents and students from these costs. Some of these demands are written into law in the form of mandates.

    2. A large part of many Professors’ time is spent in research. Some of this research has a great deal of value. It is what makes some programs in some of our Universities the envy of the world. I suspect that bulk of it is worthless, especially in the aptly named liberal arts. But either way, it is not education yet is presented to the public as such.

    3. Graduate students and low ranking, untenured professors do most of the real teaching in modern US undergraduate education. They are paid little and work hard. Yet even they do not put nearly as many hours into teaching as a good high school teacher does. This is because they have to study for higher degrees and/or take other jobs to make ends meet, or do research projects of their own.

    4. In the US, young people often feel they are entitled to their parents’ lifestyle and status regardless of how smart they are and regardless of their own life choices. Until exposed to the real world, students often believe that a bachelor’s degree is a sure ticket to this. They don’t really believe, deep down, that they will have to work as hard as their parents did. The end result of this is that a lot of people end up in college when they are either not ready for it or are better suited for work not requiring a college degree. Colleges use up a lot of resources trying to help these people.

    All in all, I think that the ever increasing amount of money going to higher education over the last few decades has done more harm than good. Perhaps drastic cuts to public funding of higher education would force both students and institutions to make more wise decisions. We tend to make better choices when we, rather than society as a whole, must pay the cost when we are wrong. We tend to value what we work for more than we value what we are just given.

  • jwing

    It is the bloated,over-priced, adolescence prolonging, dormitory hooking-up and sports fanatic promoting mentality fostered at our great halls of learning and academic rigor that has perpetuated the country’s need for illegal immigration to supplement the work young Americans won’t do . Every high school student shouldn’t automatically go to college. Instead, get he/she should work at a real job in the real ecomony and then determine what career to pursue. Higher education has the highest rate of inflation bar none that one can argue breaks the anti-trust laws. Why should high schools and colleges spend hundreds of thousand to millions of dollars pretending to be sports/entertainment venues and feeder systems for the professional sports leagues? Higher education should be about the pursuit of basic science and knowlegde and not a place to delay adolecence and “figure out” what to be WHEN one grows up. One should be a grown up before attending a college or university.

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