The Wages of Sin on C-Span

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In this world, we shall always have well-meaning people offering false counsel. They include those kind-hearted folks who say, "Jack, you should get out more!" Father, forgive them for they know not what they say.

There is now enough depravity and occasion of sin to be encountered on TV and the Internet that no one really needs to "get out more." The average American can see the world, in all its Technicolor decadence, from his living room. You can see Catherine Bach as Daisy Duke on one of those nostalgia channels and once again your mind is back into the near occasion of sin. Or you can listen to the politicians on C-Span and be tempted to the far greater sin of despair. Yes, the first circle of Hell is reserved, I imagine, for those who have lost their souls watching Daisy on "The Dukes of Hazzard." The nether regions are for those who listen to Republicans on C-Span.

Now I have recently read that the senior U.S. senator from my state, the semi-honorable "Jolly" Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, has determined that the Senate will not be able to pass a budget this year because, as determined by the gentleman from the Granite State, who is chairman of the Budget Committee, the more or less honorable gentle persons of that august body cannot agree on spending priorities. We pick these hundred men and women out of a nation of 280 or so million to make these decisions for us, only to learn that making decisions is above their pay grade. Let George do it.

But it was while watching C-Span a year ago, on a day when a driving rain dampened my incentive to "get out more," that I discovered what the Republicans in Congress were really up to. There was one GOP senator (Gordon Smith of Oregon) bewailing proposed cuts in Medicaid, the federal program to help the poor. There was Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the recycled former governor and U.S. Secretary of Education, arguing that the cut denounced by Sen. Smith was really a one to two percent reduction in the rate of increase in Medicaid spending, which must be effected if we are to be able to spend more on Medicare and other government programs like saving our schools and maybe even going to Mars.

And there was New Hampshire’s own Jolly Judd, trying manfully to eliminate a federal program called COPS, for Community Oriented Police Services. This was a program passed by the Republican Congress in a fit of bipartisanship under the Clinton administration to help meet the Clinton goal of "100,000 more cops on the beat," not to mention in the speed traps, alleyways and donut shops. And what "law and order" conservative could have opposed that?

The problem, though, is that some logical thinkers ask for consistency, which usually means more spending. If, for example, it is a Congressional responsibility to provide another 100,000 cops, then why is it not likewise up to Congress to provide another 100,000 classroom teachers? Or another 100,000 farmers, pharmacists, philosophers or peanut vendors? Why not? They all have an effect, in one way or another, on interstate commerce.

But that is not the problem Sen. Gregg was addressing on this rainy day in Florida, where I was as I was watching the goings-on in Washington. The problem, said the senator, is that the federal government had shelled out the money and put the additional cops on the beat and neither the local governments nor the Dunkin’ Donuts shops were grateful enough to pick up the tab for their continued employment. Instead, you had mayors and governors, aldermen and lobbyists for the legislatures, all petitioning Congress to continue funding the program, so the municipalities could spend the taxpayers’ money on other things, like grant writers to apply for more federal money.

Now Gregg, who supported the program to begin with, made it clear that the "feds" were supplying the seed money and the locals were to eventually pay for the harvest of more and better law enforcement. In other words, he was using your federal tax dollars as a carrot to get your local governments to spend more of your local tax dollars to pay for more law enforcement than you would have been willing to pay for if it had been recognized as a local responsibility to begin with. This is modern Republicanism, also known as federalism in our time.

This is what the Congress critters don’t often tell you when they are out on the stump telling you that they voted to put more cops on the street in your neighborhood, town or city. They want you to think they are saving you taxpayer dollars. Because money grows on trees in Washington.

And deficits grow under Bushes.

Manchester, NH, resident Jack Kenny [send him mail] is a freelance writer.

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