Remember the time honored line from childhood, “If you don’t stop crying I’ll give you something to cry about?” Combine that with the line from the Republicans – We can’t spend any money – Federal Spending is Out of Control—Think of the Children! Okay, let’s think about the children and what we’re leaving them. That’s scary.
What’s NOT Scary?
First, let’s take on the Republican mantra about spending our grandchildren’s money – it’s hokum, and always has been. The GOP had, as we remember, no problems conducting the war in Iraq on the national credit card, nor did they have any problems when they put the Medicare Part D into effect without any funding. Hypocrisy aside, there are these inconvenient facts for the GOP:
“Federal outlays over the past three years grew at their slowest pace since 1953-56, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. Expenditures as a share of the economy sank last year to 22.8 percent, their lowest level since 2008, according to Congressional Budget Office data. That’s down from 24.1 percent in 2011 and a 64-year high of 25.2 percent in 2009, when Obama pushed through an $831 billion stimulus package.” [BloombergNews]
And then there’s this:
“The deficit probably will fall to $500 billion, or just below 3 percent of GDP, by 2015, as businesses and consumers step up their spending after bringing their own debts down, said Jan Hatzius, chief economist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. The improving economy will increase tax receipts while lowering government expenditures for benefits including food stamps and unemployment compensation.” [BloombergNews]
So, thus much for the GOP and Faux News talking point, endlessly repeated for effect if not edification.
What IS Scary?
The Infrastructure Nightmare. We are leaving our children and grandchildren one horrific bill for the maintenance and improvement of our national infrastructure. We keep getting report cards from the ASCE and we keep ignoring them.
“Over two hundred million trips are taken daily across deficient bridges in the nation’s 102 largest metropolitan regions. In total, one in nine of the nation’s bridges are rated as structurally deficient, while the average age of the nation’s 607,380 bridges is currently 42 years. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates that to eliminate the nation’s bridge deficient backlog by 2028, we would need to invest $20.5 billion annually, while only $12.8 billion is being spent currently. The challenge for federal, state, and local governments is to increase bridge investments by $8 billion annually to address the identified $76 billion in needs for deficient bridges across the United States.” [ASCE]
We’re currently spending only a bit more than half of what we need to spend to eliminate the backlog – note that’s not speaking to NEW construction. Congratulations kids! We’re saving you from the practically non-existent “National Debt” problem – while we are leaving you with the bill for a deteriorating bridge system. You know, those bridges that are used by commuters, travelers, and truckers…. What could possibly go wrong? Can anyone say I-35 Minneapolis bridge collapse? Bridges are scary… so are airports:
“Despite the effects of the recent recession, commercial enplanements were about 33 million higher in number in 2011 than in 2000, stretching the system’s ability to meet the needs of the nation’s economy. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that the national cost of airport congestion and delays was almost $22 billion in 2012. If current federal funding levels are maintained, the FAA anticipates that the cost of congestion and delays to the economy will rise from $34 billion in 2020 to $63 billion by 2040.” [ASCE]
That’s right kids, while we’re saving you from that horrible nasty national debt that is neither horrible, nor nasty, we are leaving you holding the tab for an airline transportation system the cost of which will balloon up to $63 billion, billion with a big B, by 2040. But, but, but, we’ve saved your “inheritance?” What inheritance? You’ll be spending your tax dollars on things we should have taken care of 25 years earlier.
In case this is giving our children and grandchildren headaches – there’s the problem of real headaches and other medical issues.
The Medical Research Issue. The Republicans were only too pleased to launch one of their patented panic attacks about the Ebola infections, but that subsided with the election, and we still don’t have a Surgeon General, nor do we have any significant increases in funding for medical research. Remember kids – we’re saving your “inheritance.” Research America tracks funding for medical and pharmaceutical research and reports:
“Federal spending also contributed to the overall increase in the R&D spending reported for FY12, but the apparent increase in this category is misleading. The increase is largely due to changes in the classification of existing spending within the National Science Foundation and the Food and Drug Administration ($315 million at NSF and $152 million at FDA) rather than to an actual increase in dollars.”
So, while we’re skimping on funding medical research in this country, we still have mortality rates which differentiate by ethnicity – the average life expectancy of a white male is 76.5 years, a black male 71.8 years, and a Hispanic male 78.7 years. While the elders march along, on different paths, we could spend a few moments thinking about those infants who are going to be footing our bills. We have NOT succeeded in bringing down the number of fetal deaths since 2005, and those fetal mortality rates are higher for African American, Native American, and Alaskan Native women than they are for non-Hispanic white women. [CDC] If the infant makes it into the world there are still problems, for every 1,000 infants born in this country 6 of them will die during their first year of life from a serious birth defect, or being low birth weight, or from being a victim of Sudden Infant Death syndrome, or from the effects of maternal complications of surgery. [CDC]
We do have a Healthy Start program, launched in 2007, to address some of these issues, and then we cut the funding! So, we still have differentiated life expectancies, a serious problem with fetal mortality among ethnic minorities, a continuing problem with sustaining infants beyond their first year – and we cut the funding – Dear Grandchild, if you are fortunate enough to be alive to read this, please know we love you and hope you don’t mind that we “saved” you from the Nasty National Debt…. You can pay for the research to keep your own children alive, we could have helped but you know how it is.
Oh, and that Ebola thing? We’d have made more progress on the vaccine but we didn’t want to spend “your inheritance.” [Time] And, the nasal version of the vaccine – that might not happen either because of funding cuts. [Pharma] Even better – there is a proposal from the Republican to cut funding for the CDC budget – the one that in conjunction with the NIH will be working on drug resistant virus strains. If the kids want more research on new bacterial and virus related illnesses, they can pay for it themselves?
Gun Violence. While we were busy protecting your right to bear arms, and we clung to the notion that having a gun in the home will make those little future taxpayers safer. We did all this while still knowing that a gun in the home makes it 22 times more likely to kill or injure someone (maybe you) in the house than that it will ever be used for self defense. And, we knew that 60% of all children (0-9) killed by guns occurred in an apartment or single family dwelling. We also knew that two-thirds of all school shootings were done with a gun acquired in the home. [Brady] What did we do about this?
We made it impossible for a gun manufacturer or dealer to be sued for negligence or malfeasance. We refused to enact legislation to require background checks on gun buyers. We refused to even take an official count of gun deaths and would not allow pediatricians to ask if firearms were in the house. Because? Maybe you’ll want a gun… if you can still afford one… and you too can be at greater risk for a homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting. Oh, and by the way, we’re leaving the increasing costs of medical care, emergency room treatment, rehabilitation treatment, lost productivity, and judicial proceedings to you. Because you’re “free.”
So, if you want some things to truly be afraid of these are just three areas in which we have decided that our children and grandchildren can shoulder the bills because we were too deluded, too ideological, or perhaps too ignorant to do so ourselves.