Minden Press-Herald

Tuesday
Sep 30th

Low Hanging Fruit

Can anyone explain to any of us why sequestration is being used like a dull scalpel to hack away at expenditures which put little more than a dent in the $85 billion which must be shaved from a budget more bloated than Grandpa Amos' prize hog?

The overseers of sequestration, the government's admission that it cannot possibly live within its means even when the means are increased per annum ad nauseum, are taking dead aim at programs and individuals powerless to do anything more than take it on the chin. Simply stated, average Americans will suffer so the kings and queens of government can eat steak while the peasants eat cake.

Locally, sequestration has reared its ugly head and caused the cancellation of our annual Defenders of Liberty Air Show, a marvelous display put on by the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base. According to a news release Wednesday, officials at BAFB acknowledged the impacts of sequestration continue to grow.

"These are challenging times," 2nd Bomb Wing commander Col. Andrew Gebara said.

Indeed they are, Col. Gebara. But you can bet your B-52s that while you and your honorable service men and women will be sidelined, not one Congressperson will miss a meal at the multi-million dollar capitol dining hall because of cuts. And the doors to the uber-private/exclusive congressional gym/workout center will remain open without the loss of one towel. Congress, as you would expect, is exempted from sequester.

Also on the exempted list is the staff of those 535 righteous individuals who work so hard on our behalf. It really might be no more than a drop in the overall budget saving bucket, but one wonders if there's room for a slight adjustment in the average $1 million annual cost of congressional staffers. We're talking roughly $535 million to keep a Congressfeeder up to snuff on "important" issues. A tiny 10 percent cut would be proof that our hired hands want to share our pain...just like they want to share our income (taxes).

Oh, and lest we forget. Congressional salaries are also exempt. It seems only fair, don't you think, that the people who bring us unbalanced budgets and deficit spending should not only be compensated nicely but receive an annual raise without even having to vote for one.

Congress might even set an example the White House could follow. Sequester will not affect any of the 468 employees there, nor will it reduce by one cent the $37.8 million annual payroll. Sequester has, however, closed the people's house to people tours. There is an irony here, but for the life of me I can't seem to appreciate it.

Agencies are ignoring the obvious and grabbing the lowest hanging fruit as they strip the budgetary tree in feeble attempts to "save" money. Although they have defended their country in consecutive wars, our veterans find themselves taking a major blow. Cuts have been announced for tuition assistance in all branches of the military, and a program which helps homeless vets get back on their feet has gone under the knife.

The Army announced soldiers will not be allowed to apply for assistance which gives as much as $4,500 annually to take courses at accredited schools for high school and college diplomas. In fiscal year 2012, more than 200,000 troopers took advantage of the program to continue their education at a total cost of $373 million. Savings, but at what cost?

Wonder if the Pentagon brass might consider sharing the pain of their "grunts" by sequestering some staff of its top generals and admirals; staff which costs the military budget (a.k.a., taxpayer dollars) an average of roughly $1 million annually. We're not sure how many of the military's 963 generals and admirals are considered "top," but one might believe it's a goodly number.

Also, the Pentagon might want to think about singling out some of its 234 golf courses worldwide for a cut here and there. It is interesting to note that at least one of these courses came under scrutiny decades ago when its toilet seats came in at a reasonable $400 per. Adding years of cost increases, those same seats now cost about $1,000. I don't care who you are, that's stylish seating.
By the way...non-golfers face no discrimination. For their benefit, an $80 million ski lodge and resort in the Bavarian Alps opened in 2004. Gift cards are available.

People much more attentive/intelligent than your humble observer have tracked government spending for years and they agree with figures published occasionally by various watchdogs and even the government's own accountability agencies.

Figures vary, but many agree that upward of a few hundred billion dollars goes down Potomac potties each year. Usually, those dollars are in the form of House and Senate set-asides, contractual rewards for big donors and a myriad of other areas which have absolutely nothing to do with the running of government or providing useful programs for those who need them most.

But, as always, when government must slap its own overspending hand, it reacts by slapping in the face those who need a hand up. Your humble observer can speak only for himself when he says he's a little tired of his country taking it below the waist by those who intend to do nothing about the waste in spending.

Pat Culverhouse is a journalist and political columnist who lives in Minden. You may contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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