Panties are wadded up all across the Commonwealth lately as more and more people bemoan competing budget cut plans from our newly-minted Republican Governor, the Republican-controlled House of Delegates, and the Democrat-led State Senate.
While the plans vary widely in the devilish details, all 3 proposals include drastic cuts to assorted programs. From restoring funding to previously-shut-down rest stops and privatizing ABC stores to cutting public safety allotments to localities and mandating furlough days for law enforcement, the main bone of contention between the 3 plans is not whether cuts are necessary (or even so much what should be cut), but simply how deep those cuts must be.
As an infrequent blogger and twice-weekly radio host, in most cases it behooves me to opine in generalities. Not so with this post. I would, instead, like to be very specific and very clear on one key topic.
First, allow me to paint the backdrop.
Last night, after watching the latest installment of 24, I was dozing off when our local Fox affiliate’s 10’o’clock news program came on. During the lead-in, a reference was made to school meals programs, and the disastrous health and educational impact cuts to such programs could have on children in the Commonwealth.
Well, so much for speculating on what might go wrong with Jack’s attempted rescue of Farhad next week. And right out the window went the possibility of having a lucid dream where I’m a member of CTU’s tac squad, running through the underbrush in full Kevlar with a converted TEC-9, a Glock .40-cal in a leg holster, and awaiting orders from Chloe at CTU command. But, I digress.
Needless to say, I was now awake, and awaiting the news report on how Governor McDonnell is planning to starve my elementary school kids and completely screw up all their future academic pursuits due to malnutrition.
What unfolded before my eyes and ears was the penultimate sob story (second only to the “Evil Republicans want your grandma to subsist on dog food” hype that has been trotted out since the Great Society began, and more frequently since circa 1996).
The story even had the obligatory local woman with two kids in public school who also, just for the extra tug on the old heartstrings, happens to rely heavily on a rescue mission for meals during the week. She was bemoaning the fact that the free breakfast program at her kids’ school was being cut drastically and that her children depend on that most important meal of the day to keep their energy and concentration levels up until lunch time. Paraphrasing her here: “On some weekends, when I don’t fix them breakfast, I can see their concentration and energy drop off.”
Apparently, the mission she lives and/or dines at is currently receiving some type of state funding as well, and will lose some of it in these cuts. The reporter also interviewed Dr. Rita Bishop, who is the superintendent of Roanoke city schools. Dr. Bishop stated that, if the free breakfast program is eliminated, a large number of kids would be down to one meal a day (the school lunch, which is also heavily subsidized by the state).
All due sympathy would have been extracted from me but for one factor which might have escaped the audience, had this been a news story on radio. But, alas, it was TV. The woman being interviewed was at least 400 pounds. And, while the news story didn’t include her kids, it’s a safe bet that they’re a couple of lard-asses who could probably survive skipping a few meals, too.
Now, I’m not here to argue whether these cuts are of absolute necessity at present. In fact, I could articulate a very valid case against such cuts, and making up the budget shortfall elsewhere. There are far more egregious wastes of taxpayer dollars than funding school meals programs, and I’m sure even our brothers and sisters in the Democrat party can agree to that.
Here comes the damning “but.”
BUT… I believe it is well past time for us to have an honest discussion in this country. For a generation now, we have paid generous lip-service to the old adage that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Yet, all the while, a growing segment of the population has insisted that not only IS there a free lunch, but they are entitled to it AND the cake which comes after for dessert. And that they can not only have it, but eat it as well. The first and most logical question (At whose expense?) never once entering their minds.
Well, folks, the sad reality is that we have passed equilibrium on that score. The fulcrum has shifted, with slightly less than half the population footing the bill for the “entitlements” of the rest. This was already unsustainable when I was BORN. It is now rapidly approaching the realm of insurmountable.
And there’s the rub with ever-expanding nanny-statism. For the sake of convenience, we cede certain responsibilities to government (which level of government is immaterial here). But, as our founders and countless philosophers before them warned, nanny-statism is a creeping cancer. It creates loopholes big enough to drive the Large Hadron Collider at CERN through.
Because, as we are beginning to see, when we relinquish our own responsibilities into the hands (and sphere of influence) of others, we become wholly dependent upon them. And they, in turn, gloat over it, relish the power and influence it affords them, and set about the task of finding new avenues to further our dependency, thereby expanding their voter base.
When we negate our own responsibility to feed our children, government officials faced with unsustainable debt can threaten cuts in those meals subsidies to create an outcry, allowing them to kick the can down the road. When faced with the unfunded liabilities of Medicare and Social Security (not to mention the impending total collapse of these programs as the “baby boom” generation begin their draw-down of benefits), the first political party to attempt triage to stem the bleeding is immediately held up by the opposing party as a boogeyman intent on eating the souls of the sick and elderly.
And the can continues to be kicked down the road.
These are but two examples, but I believe my point is sufficiently illustrated.
It is absolutely ludicrous for anyone to suggest that these government programs are in any way more efficient, whether in terms of administration or resource allocation, than they would be if directed by simple market forces. Put another way, it is high time we realize that every penny dumped into these various programs comes directly out of the pocket of a private citizen. And, after all the traveling and administrative overhead that penny is squeezed through, it has lost a significant portion of its value before the end product or service is forced out of the extrusion mechanism attached to that complex government grist-mill.
In short, to the calorically challenged woman in that news story: you have two choices here. 1- Bemoan the fact that you can’t buy a box of Pop Tarts for your kids’ breakfast because, thanks to government “sin” taxes, your Marlboros cost 2 bucks more a pack now. Or, 2- Suck it up and re-assume your own parental responsibility to feed your kids, making whatever family budget cuts are required in order to do so. Your government should have never delved into MY paycheck to take that burden from your shoulders to begin with.
Urging and, in some cases, forcing you to take responsibility for your own damn life is not cruel. Forcing others to relieve you of that fair burden is.