October 5, 2007

Commentary:

If We Can’t Pay Our Medical Bills, Have the Terrorists Won?

By Victor Kamber

“Tear down that wall, Mr. Khrushchev!” was a proud moment in American history. Standing alongside the Berlin wall that divided east and west Germans, President Ronald Reagan demanded it be removed.

Eventually it was. America won the old-fashioned way — by spending the Soviet Union into bankruptcy in the decades-long Cold War arms race.

Now Osama bin Laden is doing the same to us. America is spending $15 billion a month in Iraq to wage a mistaken war that is a recruiting bazaar for Al Qaeda terrorists. Somewhere in a well-stocked cave in ally Pakistan, bin Laden must be laughing his turban off.

Our national debt is exploding. Today it stands at more than $9 trillion, a 56 percent increase under President Bush. That’s $29,728 for every man, woman and child in our nation. As Comptroller General David Walker has warned: “Continuing on the unsustainable fiscal path will gradually erode, if not suddenly damage, our economy, our standard of living and ultimately our national security.”

I don’t know whether Khrushchev had a comptroller general to provide advance notice of imminent bankruptcy that overspending brings, but President Bush has had a number of warning signs thrust in his path and he continues to put the pedal to the metal.

If spending in Iraq means America can’t afford health care for our children or infrastructure maintenance to keep our bridges from falling down, then the terrorists have won.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer recently described for the National Press Club the fiscal record of the Republican Party. He termed it a “decades-long train wreck.” He said that “for 18 of the 26 years I have served in Congress, a Republican has occupied the White House. And in every single year of those Republican Administrations, the federal government ran a budget deficit.”

The Maryland Democrat said the cumulative deficits under Presidents Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush and George W. Bush total more than $4.1 trillion. In contrast, the Clinton Administration had a cumulative surplus of nearly $63 billion over eight years. Under President Clinton, the federal government reduced the deficits he inherited and recorded four consecutive surpluses, the first time that had happened in 70 years.

The interest payments on the national debt in 2007 are a projected $235 billion. That’s more than Congress appropriates for any government department or agency other than Defense. It’s four times more than we spend on education, and seven times more than we spend on Homeland Security.

“This administration has pursued the most fiscally irresponsible policies in American history,” said Hoyer. Although Democrats get hammered as “tax-and-spend,” he told his press club audience that “the Democratic Party is the party of fiscal responsibility today — which is a very under-reported story.”

Sure is. So is the fact that the Russian government still had a few rubles left in the treasury when they allowed that wall to come tumbling down.

Victor Kamber, president of Coalition Services at Carmen Group, Inc.   His blog can be read at www.victorkamber.com.

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