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Economics 101
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Less Government Can Be A Good Thing

By James Donahue

While I do not agree with the Republican/Tea Bagger plan for a malicious slashing of federal spending for programs that serve the poor and elderly, there is merit in the thought that something needs to be done to curb runaway federal spending. The question is, can our elected leadership really do it, and do it effectively?

Back in the days after the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson won a landslide election to office with the Democrats holding power in both houses. Johnson used that power to do two things that have had a negative impact on the nation ever since. He escalated the Vietnam War, thus feeding the already powerful industrial military complex. His “Guns and Butter” policy also generated excess spending that included state and local governments.

The Johnson Administration created something called the Comprehensive Employment Training Act, or CETA, which funneled billions of federal tax dollars back into state, county and local coffers. The money was used to hire and train a battery of new government workers to create jobs for the unemployed. Consequently many new government agencies and offices were created, and jobs were dreamed up that were not needed but still exist today.

Among the most blatant misuses of this money was for the training and hiring of additional police officers. The small town where I lived had one police chief before CETA came along. That officer watched over the town every evening from the main corner of the downtown business district, while sitting in the town’s one patrol car. He usually went home at midnight. Since he didn’t have much to do as a police chief, this man also served as the Superintendent of Public Works during the day.

After CETA money funneled in, the same town ended up with a team of about four police officers and two patrol cars. Because these officers still lacked any reason for their existence, they made a nuisance of themselves, harassing the local youth and ticketing every driver that happened to go through town faster than the speed limit allowed.

The same thing was happening in towns, villages and townships all over the state. I am sure it happened everywhere in the United States. It was during this time that local Drug Task Forces were created to participate in the nation’s war against the evil Marijuana weed. It was also during this time that more federal dollars came down the funnel to launch special police units to fight child abuse issues. Strangely enough, as a news reporter in that rural area, I was unaware of either problems with marijuana or child abuse until after special police units existed to fight them. Suddenly both issues became major problems.

There were other staff additions. Assistant clerks were hired in many government offices. Special deputies were hired by the Sheriff for expanded road patrol on weekends and summer months. The courthouse in the county seat that I covered became so crowded the county asked voters to approve a bond issue to double the size of the building.

Now with the Congressional Republicans hell-bent on slashing federal spending to local communities, instead of cutting spending for the military, the war on drugs, on terrorism and filling the pockets of the wealthy CEO’s of the insurance, legal and medical corporations plus the nation’s lending institutions, hard times are looming for the people on main street America. It doesn’t take a financial genius to see that their plan is deeply flawed.

We look for dramatic reductions in the police departments and that may be all right if they don’t go too far. We also may see our local bus services (another product of the Johnson years) shut off, especially in the rural areas where people rely on them most. We see other services like the local libraries, unemployment assistance, food stamps, meals-on-wheels for the elderly, and many of the state agencies that were created to license professions like doctors, lawyers, real estate agents, professional medical workers, beauticians and other public services. These offices also to help people deal with the complexities of filling out income tax forms and, file for state and federal assistance .

After the spending cuts, will anybody be out there making sure the food we buy in our grocery stores is safe to eat? Or that our factories aren’t pumping toxins directly into our air, land and water? Will anybody care if the fish we catch are full of mercury and other dangerous substances?

We have long agreed that cutting wasteful spending has been necessary. But the cuts need to be carefully considered, not done on an across-the-board chopping block. Sure, we can do with less police. And we can probably close some of those offices created during the Johnson years just for the purpose of creating jobs.

Most of all, we need to shut down the nation’s scandalous war on drugs, declare marijuana a legal substance and let nearly half of the people now filling our overcrowded prisons go free. We also need to stop contracting with crooked firms like Black Water and Halliburton to help fight our wars overseas. Better yet, we need to shut down those wars and bring our troops home.

We also need to start putting tariffs on products manufactured overseas and getting imported to the United States. If we did this, even for stuff manufactured by the U. S. based companies that moved their plants overseas in a quest for cheap slave labor, two things would happen. The factories will soon move back into the United States and jobs will get plentiful again.

Accomplishing these things will go a long way toward balancing the federal budget, eliminating the national debt, and putting things back in order again. It is wrong to attack to poor and elderly without just cause.