Fools or knaves

The distance from the base of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., to the top is said to be 555 feet. Access to the top is by stairs or elevator.

The top of the monument, which is under the control of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is a great tourist attraction. It seems whenever there is a cutback in the budget of the Department of Commerce, it cuts off the elevator service to the top of the monument in order to cause the most discomfort to the taxpayers, so Commerce can get its full budget reinstated.

We are seeing the same reaction in the recent “sequestrian tour” by President Barack Obama. He appeared flanked by police and firefighters claiming the $85 billion decrease (which actually just represents a smaller increase in the government spending) will put us all at great risk of fire and mayhem. But the “decrease” represents only about 2 percent of a budget of $3.7 trillion. At the same time, The Associated Press is warning the “budget knife” will cause “widespread flight delays and shuttered airports, off-limit seashores and unprotected parks.”

Obama further threatens the cuts will “have an adverse impact on families, on teachers, on. … Head Start programs, on our military readiness, on mental health services, on medical research. …”

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood predicted “a frequent-flier nightmare of 90-minute airport waits, limited flights and closed regional airports.”

And the National Park Service is warning that, “The towering giant sequoias at Yosemite National Park would go unprotected … large sections of the Greet Cape Cod National Seashore … would close. …” and there would be a “decrease by one fifth [in] the numbers of school children who learn about the historic [Gettysburg].”

Because the government does not use a standard zero-basis budget, as the state and local governments do, the president and Congress can falsely call the reduction in the pace of growth in the budget a cut, when it is only a slight slowing in the actual growth of spending.

Because we are at this time the largest liquid economy, we are borrowing 43 cents out of every dollar spent. This reserve currency status cannot last. Right now, the U.S. government is paying 2-percent interest on 10-year bonds and 3 percent on 30-year bonds. This has the effect of stripping the elderly of their retirement income when they cannot live on the interest from their lifetime savings.

Because we owe $16.5 trillion in debt, a 1-percent increase in the government interest rate would increase the cost of the federal government by $165 billion a year.

If we can’t find an $85 billion reduction in spending out of a $3.7 trillion budget, the leaders in Washington, D.C., are either fools or knaves.

Very truly yours,

Michael B. Lange, Tiffin