As our elected officials in Washington, DC work to "fix" the latest battles on our budget and national debt, I've been reading a book by U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) entitled "The Debt Bomb." The book talks at length about the battles we face and the dire economic situation our nation is in.
While all authors put their spin on things, I found his book to be spot on as to the real issues our government faces. In fact, I found it refreshing to hear a sitting U.S. Senator speak so candidly about the problems in Washington.
For years, I've held the belief that getting re-elected becomes the top priority of most of the elected officials serving today. Because of that, they become paralyzed when it comes to making hard decisions – decisions that need to be made for the long-term survival of our country. Unfortunately, those decisions (which today must involve cutting spending across the board) don't tend to make certain voting blocs happy and can cost you votes in a re-election campaign.
In his book, Sen. Coburn calls this "careerism" and describes it as the "root of almost all that ails Washington" – he's right! "Careerism is the dark matter of the political universe. It is the unseen force that bends decisions, and character, in ways that defy common sense and obvious explanations," he writes. "If members of Congress knew their current term would be their last, I have no doubt we could defuse the debt bomb within a matter of days … Bridging the gap between conservatives and liberals is easy compared to bridging the gap between courage and cowardice."
The same things happen locally. Look how much outrage was stirred when the city made decisions to cut spending to the local chamber, oppose building spec buildings, cut city jobs, raise the property tax – all done with one goal in mind – to secure the long-term future of our town caused by years of overspending and poor economic planning. Personally, I supported those decisions because they needed to happen – not because they were popular or because they would pander to elites to gain political support for my future. Those decisions made this past April's council election quite interesting. That election was full of distortion of facts and personal attacks – all because we (the council) were no longer following the rules of "how things are supposed to happen in Neosho." But in the end, we survived and are much better because of it!
Nothing I've heard so far is going to "fix" our national debt problems for our kids and grandkids. It's more of the same political grandstanding and partisan stuff that Washington is famous for. In the end, the pains related to decades of overspending are going to come home to roost. We will all be impacted and we're all going to have to sacrifice if we want this ticking time bomb to stop. No areas of spending can be off-limits. For me, if our elected leaders don't fix it soon, I'll be in favor of throwing them all off the fiscal cliff in the next election!
Page 2 of 2 - If you like a good read, I recommend you try Sen. Coburn's book. But beware – it's not for those who want the status quo to continue!
It's shaping up to be a nice weekend – certainly better than the cold winds and flurries we saw yesterday. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and safe holiday week. The Neosho Holiday Classic basketball tournament starts on the 26th. If you like basketball, it's always a great time with some great talent!
Until next time: stay the course, keep the faith, and may God bless Neosho!
Richard Davidson is mayor of Neosho.