Framing the Dialogue

Left Hand – Right Hand

Politicians and government officials you just have to love them.  Okay you really don’t have to love them, but they do the darndest things.  As I sat through a recent presentation by a transportation official who was selling a program to construct additional roads within his district.  I don’t know if you have heard, but there is a lot of stimulus money for shovel-ready projects to create billions of new jobs.  It should not be a surprise to have a transportation agency wanting to build more roads.  That’s the left hand.

The right hand, however, complains that there is not enough money to maintain the roads and bridges that they already have.  I understand that it is probably a different part of the agency, but how can the left hand advocate for more while the right cannot maintain what they already have.  The answer is simple…raise taxes.  My suggstion is to not build more stuff until you can take care of the stuff you have.

Left Hand – Right Hand in Education:  On the left hand, politicians are all for education and it is a very popular theme during campaigns.  They lament the quality of our systems and always vow to find more money for education.  Hell they’ll hold a hearing at the drop of a hat.  I love when they ask thoughtful questions that their staff prepared for them.  Some even do the Charlie Gibson thing and hang their eyeglasses on the bridge of their noses.  

On the right hand, they totally ignore the many examples of education systems that actually work.  I don’t know the statistics, but most of the serious problems in education are found in urban schools where money is flush, but results are lacking.  So why did Dick Durbin (D-IL) sneak a provision into a spending bill that essentially killed a very popular and successful school voucher program in D.C. schools?  Did I mention that Sen. Durbn is from Illinois, not Washington (Sen. Durbin is white and his amendment impacted black children). 

Left Hand – Right Hand in Health Care:  On the left hand officials on both sides of the “aisle” knowingly stipulate that American health care is broken and they can fix it.  The debate has been going on for decades, but heatedly in during the past few months.  The answer of course is a 2,700 page piece of legislation because we all know that the answer to all problems is an expansion of government.

On the right hand, whatever health care the politicians pass won’t apply to them.  They’re special.  It wasn’t until the story of Rep. Massa’s liason with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in the congressional shower that I found out they had their own gym.

Left Hand – Right Hand on lowering taxes:  On the left hand, Pennsylvania’s Gov. Ed Rendell loves to spend our money.  He never met an entitlement that he didn’t want to grow.  Needless to say Pennsylvania is having some budget problems.  Big Eddie’s initial response as a good Democrat was to propose raising taxes.  Fortunately for Pennsylvanians the Republicans control the legislature so that did not go anywhere.  Ed is never one to give in so he actually proposed to (drum roll please) lower sales taxes.  Don’t get too excited until you read the right hand.

On the right hand Rendell’s “tax cut” is a cut on the sales tax rate which sounds good.  Remember that Eddie is a Democrat and the partner of his sales tax rate cut is an expansion of the items that would now be taxed.  He wants to tax your caskets, firewood, and even doctor visits.

Left Hand – Right Hand on debt:  On the left hand we are told that we have a health care crisis.  According to proponents in government people are dying daily because they do not have health care.  PEOPLE ARE DYING!

On the right hand the additional coverage under the proposed health care bill, if passed, will not start for four years.  They will start taking our money right away.

Left Hand – Right Hand on smoking:  On the left hand we have spent a great deal educating people about how bad smoking is for our health.  We have “punished” smokers through outrageous taxes on cigarettes and banning smoking almost everywhere.

On the right hand the U.S. government continues to subsidize, support, give money to tobacco farmers.  By the way President Obama is a heavy smoker.

March 28, 2010 Update:

I love to read the Sunday paper with breakfast on the weekends.  Today I was treated to another classic example of government gone bad with our money.  The headline read “Transit bridge projects in jeopardy” as the Port Authority of Allegheny County complains that they may have to defer repairs to some of the “poor” bridges that they own.  Spokespersons take a matter of fact approach to the unsafe structures;  “This kind of thing is fairly common — every year we have more capital projects than can be funded, so the ones that don’t make the final budget stay in the queue for another year.”

Taken on its own I might have felt some compassion for their fiscal plight except that I know what their right hand is doing.  The Authority does not have enough money to fix the structures yet they have their own version of Boston’s Big Dig.  They are in the midst of tunneling under the Allegheny River to build a connector from Pittsburgh’s North Shore (PNC Park and Heinz Field) to the downtown area.  I cannot help but shake my head as I think of this boondoggle.

The original budget for the Connector was around $280 million that swelled to $529 million.  My guess is $529 would have given them a lot of repair on the structures that they already own and are supposed to maintain.  It isn’t all bad news as the Authority proudly announced recently that they have been able to cut money from the project to save tax dollars.  They saved an unimpressive $10 million on a project that is nearly $250 million OVERBUDGET!

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