Government activity doesn’t really catch our attention in the day to day. After all, we’re up to our ears in academia. We’re scrambling to jobs that barely pay our bills. We have family and friends to keep up with. At the end of each day we’re lucky if we have a few moments to pour ourselves a proverbial drink (whether that is actual alcohol, a bowl of ice cream, a favorite TV show or video game, or some other media) before we crash like the dead into our respective beds. Who has time to watchdog our government? With all of these obligations, can’t I just trust elected officials to do the right thing? As it turns out, the answer is no.
Currently up for debate in the Congressional Chamber is House Resolution 1 (HR1). HR1 is the national budget proposal that essentially decides where and how much federal money is spent through the fiscal year. This resolution was introduced by Congressman Hal Rogers of Kentucky’s 5th district.
You might not know Rogers, but he’s good at what he does. Between 2008 and 2010 he secured earmarks totaling $251.9 million for his district. HR1 is prime territory for our “Representatives” to carp with one another about where large dollar amounts are going. If you can tolerate formal loquaciousness prancing on paper you can read how it has gone so far at thomas.loc.gov.
If you want to save yourself the hair pulling here’s a summation: Military defense spending will be gigantic. Which branches of military get varying but always-staggering amounts of money will be determined by long arguments between those with vested interests in said branches. Ultimately, “defense” expenditures will increase.
Programs ensuring the basic welfare and quality of life will find themselves crippled by budget cuts. People in the US and abroad will literally starve to death because the money will stop coming that buys the food that keeps them alive. Programs and organizations that support organic farming, and small farmers in general, will be decimated. The already anemic Environmental Protection Agency will lose funding that allows for the monitoring of companies who potentially violate standards designed to ensure our safety and livelihood. It goes on and on and on.
As the water sours, air quality is exacerbated and the quality of life for literally 99 percent of Americans is a laughable platitude at best, and an hour to hour survival game at worst, we witness the cyclically flawed stumbling we call a democracy in the United States.
The major decisions, the game changing power, purportedly resides in your hands via the elected officials serving “your interests” in the haughty chambers of government. Yet we have written proposed legislation before our very eyes that significantly degrades the quality of life for millions of our fellow citizens. With the slightest shift of circumstances, it could be you seeking help from a program that’s no longer there. To enact such cuts is deplorable behavior and a defiance of basic morality.
I understand that we have a national debt the size of Jupiter. We’re on a collision course with the demise of our cumulative stupid spending. I am simply suggesting that bankrupting the programs that keep people alive, promote healthier food production and attempt to safeguard our planet is not the way to reduce that deficit. Only when our (‘Our’ is a term of totality. It encompasses your needs, my needs and every other person in the US) basic needs are met are we able to progress towards a sustainable future.
Consider also that our government recently extended tax cuts for two more years that aid the total wealth of the top one percent of Americans considerably while a recent New York Times article points out that “roughly 45 million Americans spend a third of their post-tax income on food — and still run out monthly — and one in four kids goes to bed hungry at least some of the time.”
It’s proven that the top 400 wealthiest Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 50 percent. That is 400 autocrats that have more wealth than 150,000,000 Americans combined. It defies logic to consciously vote into effect increased wealth for the wealthy in one hand and scythe sums of money that help millions of people in the other. Scared yet?
The dollar figures are dizzying and yet it’s helpful to understand that the total dollars saved by the proposed cuts to current programs is paltry in comparison to the estimated sum we’ve saved the rich upper echelon.
The Center for American Progress points out that the total cost of all programs at risk of being cut by HR1 could very nearly be funded by the recently extended tax breaks for the uber-rich.
We have become accustomed to trusting that we can live our lives free of any efforts required to maintain democracy. The time where that is possible has come and gone, if it ever were. The degradation of rights of those that share the society we live in are being threatened by the very government that is sworn to protect us.
It follows that our basic rights will also be taken from us. It’s only a matter of time. The least that we can do for our fellow citizens and ourselves is to commit to using our voice and personal strengths to make it known that we believe in supporting the basic rights of well being for all people. There is no person without rights. There is no person that does not have a voice. Become informed and speak up. The time for civic engagement is now.