Political Leadership Needed

By: Roger Sheppard
By: Roger Sheppard

"Cut Benefits -- Just Not Mine" is the Mantra


I wouldn't be a politician now for any amount of money.

The nation is awash in a rising sea of red ink and no one has the guts or the political clout to be able to say enough is enough.

Is there wasteful spending in Washington? Sure there is. To the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

But someone benefits from getting each slice of that money and those folks are not going to give it up without a fight.

Everyone says "cut spending," but, in truth, they only want spending cut for the things that benefit other people - not them.

Here's a suggestion.

The U.S. has borne the burden of being the world's policeman ever since we had to help Europe clean up its messes not once but twice in the 20th Century.

Why do we continue to spend billions of dollars each year to keep military bases in Europe more than 60 years after the end of World War II?

Perhaps it's to try to keep them from starting yet another war amongst themselves.

Sorry. It's time to close all of our military bases in England and Europe and bring the troops home.

The income tax code needs to be simplified. But it has become so twisted by groups seeking exemptions for this, that and the other thing that simplifying it will be a huge task.

Our state and federal governments use taxes to try to encourage and discourage certain activities. We allow millions of people to take mortgage deductions as a way of encouraging them to buy homes. We tax cigarettes sky high to try to discourage smoking. There are tax shelters and pre-tax deductions that people can take to shield income from taxes.

Individually, each of these things sound like good ideas. But in aggregate, they create such a confusing mess of taxes that no one can totally figure them out. We've all heard stories over the years about IRS representatives who give the wrong advice. Don't blame them. Blame "US" for allowing this mess to continue.

Democracies and republics come to an end for a variety of reasons. Wars. Corruption. Decay.

But I have to believe that another way they die is when the people figure out they can use the power of the ballot box to elect politicians who will vote to continue to support more and more benefits, beyond what the society can afford.

Only when politicians of all stripes stand together and say "we can't continue to pay out benefits that neither we nor our children nor our grandchildren can afford," can this trend be reversed. That is what is going on right now in some European countries. And the benefit cuts being considered there are drastic. But they have to be. Those countries have been over-spending and under-performing for more than a generation.

We should all take a good look at what's going on in Europe. And then we need to remember, they're just a few steps ahead of us.

That's this week's editorial.

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