Our World This Week

Congress finally acted in bipartisan fashion this past week, extending the 2 percent payroll tax cut through the rest of 2012. President Obama praised the effort, proclaiming, “It is amazing what happens when Congress focuses on doing the right thing, instead of just playing politics.”

On Valentine’s Day, the country discovered that a 4-year-old girl had the lunch her mother packed at home confiscated at a public school. Instead, the girl was fed three chicken nuggets. The incident was thankfully peaceful, requiring no SWAT team involvement.

Last Wednesday, a bipartisan collection of politicians and insiders stood in a Denver courtroom protesting before a federal judge that the people of Colorado were violating the right of state legislators to raise taxes and spend money as legislators please.

What do these three stories have in common? On the face of it, nothing. But they do point to today’s frightening, over-arching reality: Our government is wildly out of control.

Let me first admit: I wholeheartedly support the two-percent payroll tax cut. Better that I retain my own money to provide for my retirement than it be taken under the demonstrably false pretense that the federal government will do the saving for me.

Sure, this cut to Social Security revenue just as outgoing payments again outstrip incoming funds dangerously undermines the pension system. Critics in Congress and out have a point. Or, they might have one, if many decades of poor-to-fraudulent congressional management of the program had not already done so.

Giving taxpayers back 2 percent of their own money is more likely to improve their golden year prospects than will handing that cash over to the Obama Administration and the least popular Congress in history.

Alas, the tax cut isn’t “paid for” — there are no cuts being made in other spending. The tax relief comes by putting the United States of America $90 billion further in debt.

Additionally, the same bill provides yet another “doctor fix.” Congress has repeatedly patted itself on the back for cutting spending by reducing future payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients, only to then go back and quietly pass a “fix” that restores the very payments Congress had cut to great fanfare.

Had the payments been actually reduced, Medicare patients might not have been able to find medical care, so the “doctor fix” makes some sense. But surely going through the cycle of cutting and then restoring those cuts, again and again, signals the extent to which the whole thing is a con game.

When the Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act, covering millions of additional Americans with health insurance, the bill was scored by the Congressional Budget Office as saving taxpayers money over ten years. How? By cutting $600 billion from Medicare by — you guessed it — paying doctors less for providing care.

How about another ride on the merry-go-round?

The week’s most astounding carnival ride came when a government inspector took a home-made lunch from a 4-year-old girl. Forget that the lunch consisted of a turkey-and-cheese sandwich, a banana, potato chips and apple juice; forget that it was forcibly replaced by three fried chicken nuggets. Never mind that none of the state and federal agencies involved — the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Division of Child Development and Early Education at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, Hoke County (NC) schools, and the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — own up to being responsible for hiring the still mysterious preschool lunch czar.

Focus on this question: Can we not feed ourselves without a multitude of government agencies and bureaucrats telling us how to maneuver the correct food into the correct orifice?

I think we can.

And, no doubt, we can borrow more money from China to pay the unemployment benefits for that government lunch inspector.

I’ve written previously about the lawsuit by Colorado’s biggest political muckety-mucks, which asks a federal judge to overturn the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, dubbed “TABOR.” The initiative amendment requires that tax increases passed by the legislature must be approved by the people and, moreover, it sets caps on state spending growth that can only be overridden through voter approval.

The lawsuit claims that limiting the ability of the legislature to tax and spend without voter approval destroys the “republican” form of government in Colorado, something the U.S. Constitution requires in each state. It would be an amusing argument, if they were not making a federal case out of it.

Who works for whom? The Colorado Legislature did not create the people of Colorado; the people created the legislature . . . to represent them.

Not to sue them.

So, here’s the takeaway from this week: In the face of a debt crisis at home and throughout the world, Mr. Obama and the bipartisan leadership of Congress continue to plunge us further into the abyss. With the lowest approval ratings in history, our august solons continue to seesaw public policy by cutting spending and then restoring that cut spending. That same federal government has regulations that cause their own or some state government food policeman to bully our wee ones over what their mothers pack in their lunch. And the voters in one state are being sued because they think their state legislators work for them, rather than the other way around.

President Obama said this week that “Congress should take pride” in their actions. No doubt, he’d say the same for the food police and the bipartisan posse of politicians suing the voters of Colorado.

“Pride goeth before a fall.”                 [links & references]

February 19, 2012

This column first appeared at Townhall.com.