Monday, July 25, 2011

Small Government In Action, Again

Over the past few months of wrangling over the debt ceiling, "shared sacrifice" became one of the most appealing mantras, repeated across the political spectrum. On the left, there is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in early July stating "I’m trying to rally public opinion and put pressure on the White House to say that the American people want shared sacrifice." Ten days later, it's the center-right President, advocating cuts in domestic discretionary programs, defense, Medicare, and elimination of a few tax loopholes, declaring "Simply put, it will take a balanced approach, shared sacrifice, and a willingness to make unpopular choices on all our parts."

The cliche has reached the statehouses, including in Pennsylvania, where the low-key hard right governor, Tom Corbett, having slashed state jobs and education and given a free pass to natural gas drillers, intones "everyone needs to share in the sacrifice."'

Then there is trend-setter Oklahoma Senator and Gang of Six member Tom Coburn, who back in December stated "The only way we get out of the hole we are in is if we make shared sacrifices." On Meet The Press (transcript of segment here) yesterday, he conceded "waste in tax credits" but still recommended we" lower the rates because our biggest problem isn't that taxes are too low, it's that the government interference and the oppressive nature of our government on our economy is lessening the economy's response. " "The problem," Coburn claimed, " is that we're spending way too much money, and, and it's not hard to cut it without hurting entitlement benefits."

The Oklahoma Republican recommended also cutting entitlements and added "it's that the government interference and the oppressive nature of our government on our economy is lessening the economy's response." The "oppressive nature of our government," conspicuously (and still) absent while Wall Street was running wild and wrecking the economy, is playing little role in harming the economy's response, unless Senator Coburn is referring to the two million or so jobs created by the stimulus.

Coburn, who voted to extend the USA Patriot Act but otherwise finds government "oppressive," understandably did not mention

Many states hit hardest by this week's searing heat wave have drastically cut or entirely eliminated programs that help poor people pay their electric bills, forcing thousands to go without air conditioning when they need it most.

Oklahoma ran out of money in just three days. Illinois cut its program to focus on offering heating money for the winter ahead. And Indiana isn't taking any new applicants. When weighed against education and other budget needs, cooling assistance has been among the first items cut, and advocates for the poor say that could make this heat wave even more dangerous.

"I've never seen it this bad," said Timothy Bruer, executive of Energy Services Inc., which administers the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program in 14 Wisconsin counties. The group has turned away about 80 percent of applicants seeking cooling assistance.

The sizzling summer heat comes after a bitterly cold, snowy winter in many places and at a time when unemployment remains stubbornly high.

The cuts began after Congress eliminated millions of dollars in potential aid, forcing state lawmakers to scale back energy assistance programs. The agencies that distribute the money are worried that the situation could get even worse next year because the White House is considering cutting the program in half.

The Oklahoman might have been concerned that Oklahomans are suffering through record-breaking heat and the state's worst drought in decades coupled with limited government. Perhaps that is the "shared suffering" its senator advocated last December, exacerbated by conservative politicians exorcised by "shared suffering" and titillated by budget cuts.

Extreme weather occurrences such as heat and drought, however, need not be noticed. But when the northern hemisphere- remarkably- experiences a snowstorm this winter, some politicians, pundits, and talk-show hosts will triumphantly declare the foolishness of the concept of global warming.

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