NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

October 5, 2013

The shutdown's real battle

Have to update last week’s column, in which I told you the national debt was $16,745,555,054, with my twin grandchildren owing $105,746.

A week later, the national debt is $16,959,161,700; the kids now owe $107,072.

Also, the Social Security liability is $16.6 trillion. The Medicare liability is $87.4 trillion. Someone just sent me an email: “We’re always hearing about how Social Security is going to run out of money. How come we never hear about welfare running out of money?”

Got another email, noting last-minute government spending as government agencies use up their budget or risk losing some of the next year’s appropriation. From the Washington Post: The Veterans Affairs Department spent more than a half-million dollars for artwork, the Coast Guard spent nearly $200,000 on “cubicle furniture rehab,” and the Agriculture Department spent $140,000 on toner cartridges in just one day.

Fox News reported that “federal agencies last week spent money on junkets for Chinese wine connoisseurs, Christmas tree initiatives, radio ads promoting New Jersey blueberries, a maple syrup recipe contest and produced a YouTube video to instruct on the proper handling of watermelons.”

I recall such activity from my years as a Navy wife. At the end of the fiscal year, the word went out: Spend! Build a tennis court, paint the offices, paint the flagpole! Or we’ll get our budget cut for next year!

You may correctly assume that this was the beginning of my taxpayer activism.

Last week, Sen. Ted Cruz reached out during a filibuster-like address to the nation, comparing the quixotic effort of tea party Republicans to stop ObamaCare to other historic resistance to Big Government. Now he’s said he’ll donate his salary to charity for each day that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, refuses to negotiate. This is a clever way to remind voters which party is insisting on the government shutdown instead of compromising with even a one-year delay of ObamaCare.

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