There's a legend that claims Ben Franklin was confronted by a woman upon his leaving a session of the First Continental Congress who asked "Mr. Franklin, Mr. Franklin, what form of government are we to have?" Franklin is said to have replied "God help us my dear, a democracy." Democracy has survived along with its many contradictions and absurdities. And if Ben were alive today, he wouldn't be surprised at recent attempts to reduce Pentagon spending before deficit conscious lawmakers make deeper cuts to the defense budget -- only to have those same lawmakers challenge reductions that impact their home districts.
Yesterday's WSJ reports that "Last week, a group of congressmen from Virginia wrote to [Defense Secretary] Gates challenging his recommendation to eliminate the Joint Forces Command, known as JFCOM, saying it would lead to thousands of job losses in southeastern Virginia." Gates is on a campaign to "realize $100 billion in cost savings over the next five years" and not only plans to eliminate JFCOM – "created in 1999" – but has also "announced he would cut payments to outside contractors by 10% a year for the next three years, saying the Pentagon bureaucracy had grown over-reliant on contractors and grown accustomed to operating with little consideration to cost."
Sounds encouraging, but Gates and the Virginia Congressmen are in a spitting contest where the latter have said "What Gates is doing is base closure rather than cost-cutting." Obviously it's both. And it comes at a time when voters are more concerned about employment and deficit reduction than at any other time in the nation's history. Government spending and the national debt must be reduced and more than half of the nation's registered unemployed need to get back to work before the economy can recover. Both objectives are ominous and difficult tasks that cannot be resolved when career lawmakers prioritize their personal re-election over what's best for the country.
Me thinks it's time for lawmakers and voters to face the fact that regardless of how we got here, we're not going pull out of it if we can't pull together. The big picture is just that. So long as we're more focused on "Not In My Back Yard" rather than what must take place for the greater good, everyone will be mired in this political nonsense and resultant lagging economy for many years to come. If we want democracy, we had better start making it work.
Non-partisan ideas anyone?