The nation is engaged in a conflict with itself. Right vs. left. Conservative vs. liberal. Young vs. old. Perhaps it always has been this way, but it has come to the point of crisis through the efforts of Congress to balance the federal budget by the year 2002.
I believe every American would like Congress to get the nation's fiscal house in order. No country can survive and prosper when bearing a burden of debt as large as the United States has amassed. Our national debt is some $5 trillion and our budget deficit is adding another $200 billion every year.
Yet, is it possible or practical to reverse and correct our problems within the arbitrarily short time frame of seven years, as the Republicans in Congress are determined to do? Something must be done, but is Congress doing the right thing?
Over the summer, the House of Representatives was engaged in developing the 13 appropriations bills that fund everything from national defense to the national education goals. It has become apparent where Congress' priorities lie. Spending for Social Security will increase this year. It is the largest entitlement program in the nation, consuming roughly a third of our nation's budget. Spending for defense will be protected-Congress also ordered additional B2 stealth bombers that the military does not even want. Education programs overall, on the other hand, face cuts of 20 percent, and vocational-technical education may be cut by as much as 30 percent.
What does this tell you about the priorities of Congress? Senior citizens represent the largest voting constituency across the nation and many members of Congress cannot get elected without their votes. B2 stealth bombers are built at a cost of roughly $1 billion each and represent jobs in the districts of several key members of Congress. The federal investment in education, however, is only 6 percent of the total spending on education nationwide and is not viewed as significant.
The problem with an ordering of priorities based on voting constituencies is that it pits one interest against another in a contest for political power. A generational conflict is created by sparing Social Security recipients from cuts while shortchanging the education of our youth and young adults. The preservation of military industrial complex jobs is valued over free market supply and demand because elected officials can claim credit for bringing home the bacon and creating jobs and wealth in their districts and their states. This is how memorials to Congressmen get built. …