Congresses’ new zero based budget trend is healthy, though sacred cows limit the options. Military spending won’t be touched since the folks we put in congress are of the “it’s-always-been-done-that-way” mindset. Of course the biggest reason for budgetary untouchables is that lobbyists pay leaders to champion the status quo.
They pay them to obey, not to be visionaries and they get what they pay for. That will be even clearer when you watch the congressional horse trading that’s going on. You can’t miss the single biggest weakness in our democracy: our shortsightedness.
Three fast examples:
Even the flat-earthers who don’t believe in science have to notice that local weather patterns point to something meteorologically awry. The last decade, our warmest in recorded history, produced exaggerated weather patterns with more intense rains, drought, hurricanes, and tornadoes. The bad weather is hitting harder and lasting longer.
Ask North Carolinians about the more than 60 tornadoes that hit this week. (NC used to average 19 a year.) Globally, ask the Russians about their terrible drought or the Pakistanis about their floods.
The congressional response to this is to cut the EPA’s budget by a third, degrading our carbon emissions enforcement capability. Is anybody thinking how much it costs to rebuild those towns in North Carolina, or the St. Louis Airport or the city of New Orleans, and the list gets longer daily? Since we have to pay for weather damage, why not pay up front, cut carbon and do our part to reduce the weather chaos?
A second example of the fog on congressional eye-glasses relates to the BP disaster. Little of significance has changed by way of tighter rig safety standards since the spill. (Do you think there is any connection between legislative inaction and the fact that Exxon will announce 10 Billion dollar record profits this week, even as gas streaks past $4 a gallon?) Sure, we achieve modest enforcement savings by sitting on our thumbs, but we will pay a multiple of what we save when we have to clean up the next major coastal spill. And be sure that there will be one.
One more example of our myopia. The current budget negotiations will divert dollars from America’s investment in renewable energies, better rail transportation, a more efficient electric grid and the myriad of other options that cut carbon emissions or wean us off of foreign oil. Would a smart businessman really do this? Is it clever commerce to cede the renewables technology race to China, India, and Germany in the name of short term budget restraint?
The biggest problem isn’t the budget. It’s the people who to spend it. They are supposed to be visionaries, but they’re more like the god Apollo chose as his prophet. The Greek god Tiresias, it turns out, was blind.