August 21, 2019

We Have A Lazy, Inept Congress With A Short-Term Focus

Many of us have heard the term “they are stacking the deck chairs on the Titanic.” It means a useless activity with no meaningful purpose.  This country is in trouble.  I am not sure we have the type of people we need in Congress to transact the business of our nation regardless of which party they belong to.  Maybe their short term focus is generated by the limited time that they plan on spending in Congress.

Everyone agrees that our Federal Tax Code is a joke – all five and one half million words of it.  But what we have built is an internal government agency of some 93,000 people that no one in Congress has the guts to dismantle and move ahead with a flat more reasonable tax.  Instead we perpetuate the status- quo hoping something magical will happen.

It should come as no surprise that Social Security and Medicare will get worse in the years to come.  Add Obama Care to the mix and it will come close to a disaster.  Mr. Obama is real concerned.  So concerned that he was willing to push forward a program to reduce the Social Security that workers pay by two percent!  Why?  Because it is short term fix and he may not be in office next year to worry about Social Security or Medicare anyway.  Many people also don’t realize that the so-called Social Security “Trust Funds” that were established years ago are empty of real money.  Instead they are filled with government IOU’s” from the General Fund.   The money we now pay in Social Security does not go into the Trust Fund but into the General Fund where it is spent with all the other taxes collected by Uncle Sam.

How about the National Debt?  Last August, most of us thought the world was coming to an end with the debt ceiling crisis.  Congress passed the debt ceiling increase and then established a committee to come forward with recommendations to reduce the deficit.  Now we all know how successful committees are especially when it comes to something dealing with taxes or finance.  The Budget Control Act of 2011 included “triggers” to ensure that at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction is achieved by Congress.  The process of “sequestration” may never happen.  Already, our Congressional leaders are talking about cancelling or capping these sequestrations or at least exempting certain programs from the deficit cuts.  The bottom line is that we have forgotten about the National Debt and Congress has more important things on his plate such as investigating the Secret Service scandal which will fade into history faster than yesterday’s newspaper.

How about the Federal Budget process in Congress?  We have not had a budget recognized by both parties in three years.  Basically, we are operating on “continuing resolutions” which is simply throwing money we don’t have at the problem and hoping that it will go away.  The Federal Budget itself is almost comical.  Built within the current budget is a $1.33 trillion deficit that adds to the almost $16 trillion dollars that we have accumulated over decades.  The concept of a balanced budget is beyond the comprehension of our leaders as they would have to spend time matching revenues to expenses and actually working out plans to pay for all the programs that they want to propose.

Meanwhile, Congress has passed Obama Care with a shortfall of $532.8 billion dollars and the United States Postal Service is hemorrhaging money at the rate of a $3.1 billion dollar loss per quarter.  At what point Congress will address the Postal Service situation and ongoing losses is anyone’s guess.  Add to this our continuing high unemployment and the skyrocketing cost of gas and things can’t get much worse.

Complicating this whole mess is the fact that we are in an election year.  Many members of Congress are probably packing some boxes and getting ready for a January 2013 exit.  Meanwhile the problems in our country continue to mount.  How did we ever get into this type of fix?  Most private employers would fire workers who stopped working altogether and sat back for seven months until an election.  Maybe the answer lies in continuing elections rather than our present process.  This way not so many members of Congress would come due for re-election at the same time and motivate the others to address the work that needs to be done in Congress.

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Written by
Donald Wittmer

DONALD WITTMER is a retired business executive who held key roles in the automotive and banking sectors. For a time, he also served as a Fiscal Agency Manager for the Detroit branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He received his undergraduate degree from Cincinnati's Xavier University, an M.A. in business management from Central Michigan University, and earned certification in bank operations from the School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A husband, father, and grandfather, he teaches part-time at the Kent Place School for Girls in Summit, New Jersey.

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Written by Donald Wittmer
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