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Give Congress a timeout

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DOE spent more in New Mexico in 2010 than in any state

By Sherry Robinson

Maybe you weren’t amused by all the snarky comments about candidate Rick Perry’s memory lapse.
Anybody over a certain age has experienced those mental misfires.
We can usually laugh them off unless we happen to be on national television as a candidate for president.
Focus instead on what the man intended to say.
To cut the deficit, Perry would eliminate the Education Department, the Commerce Department, and the Energy Department.
The Energy Department? Ack!
The DOE may not be a model of bureaucratic efficiency, but in fiscal 2010, the department spent $4.1 billion in New Mexico, more than it spent in any other state.
Perry might as well have said, No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus.
Perry’s simple proposal ignores some vital functions and leads to the usual, tired platitudes about cutting fat.
Sherman McCorkle, in an interview with New Mexico Business Weekly, put it best: “My concern is that if you get an immediate cut, you get some immediate gratification, but also some long-term harm.”
The context of his remark was nuclear weapons work, but the observation has broad applications.
Rash funding cuts will eliminate jobs and contracts and waste with one grand flush.
Recently the super committee waved a white flag and retreated. The committee didn’t lack for nonpartisan plans. One was from the nonpartisan Comeback America Initiative, led by David M. Walker, a former comptroller general. (www.tcaii.org).
Sen. Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, Clinton’s former chief of staff, also offered a plan.
And I’ve written previously about the plan developed by former Sen. Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office.
Early this month, Domenici and Rivlin, who co-chair the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force, spoke to the super committee.
Domenici, as usual, put his finger on the problem and warned committee members in blunt language not to sandbag the process with partisan, ideological disputes.
“Both sides – those who are against any fundamental health entitlement reform and those who oppose any revenue increases – will be equally complicit in bringing this nation closer to the fiscal brink,” he said.
In the darkness is a tiny light. Members of both parties have demonized each other so long that they no longer socialize, but a few freshmen of both parties left the traveled road.
Over lunch they found they had some common goals. Their breakthrough lunch became weekly breakfasts for discussion and brainstorming, and they’ve introduced three bills.
Most of us know that if you break bread with somebody, differences tend to shrink.
Maybe what Congress needs is a time out, like what you give misbehaving children, followed by milk and cookies that Rs and Ds must consume together.
We might see more of the bipartisan solutions we all want.
Washington doesn’t have all the answers. The AARP Bulletin says individuals have a role in reducing the deficit and suggested five steps:
•Cut 150 calories a day from your diet. This could reduce health-care costs of diabetes ($174 billion a year, 60 percent of it paid by the government.)
•Pay your debts. The fastest-growing item in the federal budget is the interest paid on $14 trillion in national debt; individual borrowing pressures interest rates upward.
•Walk a mile a day or do something else to burn calories and strengthen your heart.
Cardiovascular disease will cost more than $1 trillion by 2030; Medicare will pay more than half.
•Plan to work an extra year or two. This helps the Social Security trust fund and adds to your retirement nest egg.
•Donate to Uncle Sam. Don’t laugh. Taxpayers’ gifts to the U.S. Treasury this year total $2.4 million.
Bulletin Editor Jim Toedtman writes that this isn’t just Washington’s problem.
It requires common sense and forceful action. Citizens can lead the way.”

Sherry Robinson
© 2011 New Mexico
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