Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

November 30, 2012

Another View: An Amateur Balancing Act

Charlotte Shivvers

Pella — I know that balancing our budget can’t be as simple as I portray it.  I know that democracy is hard.  I know it’s a challenge to reach financial agreement among representatives (and lobbyists) from all parts of our society.  And I know that some of us are downright unreasonable, stupid, or evil.  But there have to be safe and fair ways to protect from the debts that create fiscal cliffs.  And I’m probably the cheapest budgetary advisor around, so here goes:

All subsidies to billionaire oil companies like Exxon, Shell, and Mobile should end immediately.  Perhaps they are left over from times when oil exploration was vitally necessary, but now the companies are gluttonously rich and deserve no more of our government largesse.  

Neither do the high end farmers who receive the largest subsidies, especially not now in a time of record farm profits.   The farm bill currently stalled in Congress needs at least two serious budgetary changes:  First, unlike earlier farm programs, there is no requirement that recipients must practice soil conservation – so we let priceless soil that we’ve paid to save wash away unprotected.  Second, there is no limit on payments.  

Another area where we both waste money and endanger our future is in the realm of climate change.  Here, we should follow the example of President Reagan.  He acted effectively against an earlier climate threat – a hole in the ozone layer – because he figured it would save money to do so!  How about now?   Estimates are that Hurricane Sandy repair will total at least 60 billion dollars.  We would actually save money – and create jobs – by investing in more ways to lessen the carbon in our atmosphere and protect against more climate change.

I’ve recently explained the unnecessary expenditure in the military category which now consumes 60 percent of our overall budget.   

I’ve also described before how we could save vast sums by legalizing marijuana, perhaps cocaine and heroin, too.  (Our drug laws have been as effective in controlling them as Prohibition was in ending alcohol use.)   We could save by ending prosecution efforts and starting instead to reap benefits from hefty taxes on drugs.   We would save much more if part of the tax proceeds were used to support addiction clinics, helping people heal from drug use.  That would save dollars which society now loses on drug-related crime and diminished human potential.   

Here’s a big one:  instead of all that money going out in “unemployment” checks why not offer – or require – employment?   Remember the mighty works of the WPA and the CCC?  Why not let currently unemployed take jobs like that?  We could use road repair, new bridges, national park restoration, and so much more.    

Finally, here’s a very small one, but it’s close to home.  Go to the Post Office for stamps and ask to view their whole collection.  You’ll see many works of beauty, many that portray important historic events or significant people.  But think of the dollars it must take to provide that collection.  Why not let stamp lovers pay enough extra for special stamps to at least cover the expense?  

Perhaps that’s the message today:  first, make common sense cuts to the budget, and then let us – or make us – pay enough to at least cover the expense.