Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

U.S. Doesn't Have Money Trouble, Right?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

U.S. Doesn't Have Money Trouble, Right?

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods, Times-Union columnist

How much are you willing to chip in for a bridge in Baghdad? How about telecommunications in Tikrit? A power plant in Kirkuk?

Yes, you. The American taxpayer.

Did you think someone else was going to pick up the check for rebuilding Iraq?

Before the war, the theory was that Iraq's oil would cover much of the cost. We now know that won't be the case; that the oil is there, but it's going to take a while to get to it.

So we're looking elsewhere. Our allies, many of whom didn't want this war to start with, aren't exactly reaching for their wallets. So here's the thing: Our federal budget is full of runaway spending anyway, right? Would you mind if while tightening our national belt, cutting some fat, we spent $50 billion a year in Iraq?

Sure, we've got a few problems right here at home. But can't we delay a few things, maybe take our time fixing some of our infrastructure? It's not like an electrical grid is going to go on the fritz tomorrow and leave a corner of the country in the dark, right?

Maybe we don't give NASA that additional money it says it needs. Maybe we trim a few hundred million from Amtrak's budget. It's not much in the big picture. But, hey, you've got to start somewhere.

Speaking of, would you be willing to tighten your personal belt? Maybe take a smaller raise?

Well, if you're a federal employee under the general schedule system -- a category that includes about two-thirds of the government's 1.8 million civilian workers -- you don't have a choice. President Bush sent a letter to congressional leaders last week saying he was using his authority to change pay structure in times of "national emergency or serious economic conditions."

This move saves $11 billion, which sounds like a lot until set alongside another figure tossed out days earlier. …

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