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Fanny pack economics
Jonathan Pait
September 3, 2001

Do you remember going to camp in the summer with more money in your wallet than you thought you had ever seen before? Your mother gave it to you with a warning that when the money was gone you couldn’t come back to her for more. It would have to last the trip to camp, through the week and then for the trip home.

Remember your friend who blew his stash at the first stop? Don’t forget the miser in the group who skimped through the week and then on the way home bought that really cool water gun that none of the rest of you heavy spenders could afford. There is just something about having some discretionary funds to show a kid what he is really made of.

That is why I don’t like the surplus. I hate to equate our representatives up in Washington to a bunch of camp kids. However, their track record reminds me a lot of a bunch of camp-bound youngsters heady with thoughts of big spending at the canteen.

I also remember the time I got a job cropping tobacco for $1.75 an hour. I was eleven years old. That is prime camp going time. Since I was now “earning my way,” I didn’t get the allowance for camp handed to me the way mom used to do. Amazing how much of a spendthrift I became.

We, the taxpayers, serve as the mother and dads of our Washingtonian campers. August break ends and off they go to camp with us packing their wallets. So many goodies! So much dough! Look at that starry eyed camper. “Oooooo, see that pork barrel? Let me check my fanny pack. Hmmmmm, one—two—three—four—five, yeah! Five million! I can get it with more left over.”

According to the Republican Study Committee, 1993-1997 (those would be pre-surplus years) saw federal discretionary spending curtailed by 2.2 percent. During 1997-2001 (those would be surplus garnering years) the spending exploded to 24.1 percent. To what did this money go? Here are some for instance:

  • Department of Education – 35.7 percent increase
  • Housing and Urban Development – 35.1 percent increase
  • Department of Labor – 35.2 percent increase
  • Now, we know better than to argue about education. Who should complain about people getting aid for housing? Here on Labor Day, I had better keep mum on that department as well. We should note that not one of these departments carries out a truly constitutional responsibility. Not like, we’ll say, the Department of Defense. What did that department get? It received a 3.7 percent increase.

    The best way to get Washington to control spending is to decrease the amount of tax revenue for them to budget for spending. We stand in a very dangerous position. The Congress currently wears a fanny pack with more money than they need to meet operational expenses. Will that continue to be the case? What happens when the American people can’t give at the rate to keep the fanny pack full?

    Congress will be forced to cut. Cut what? Ah, you can hear the howls even now. Would it be the Department of Education? “No, you can’t decrease our funding! Don’t you care about the children?” Will it be any of the other departments geared toward special interests? Oh, no. The one-thing politicians like more than money is a solid voting base. Oh, I know! Why don’t we cut the Department of Defense? Yeah! Who likes those yucky bombs anyway?

    Again I am reminded of another rite of summer, baseball. Specifically, that movie, “Field of Dreams.” Who can forget the eerie sound of, “If you build it, they will come.” Well, when it comes to Washington we hear something just as true, “If you send it, they will spend it.” Problem is, it isn’t a dream. It’s a nightmare.

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