President Bush stood before the nation this week and pledged "we will do what it takes" to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Those words sent shudders down the backs of fiscal conservatives - this writer among them - who wonder just where we're going to find an extra $300 billion or so to accomplish this task.
We are at an interesting point in history as we debate the role of the federal government in our lives. Most conservatives want less government involvement. Granted, when you throw in a natural disaster like Katrina, all eyes look toward the feds. But just remember, WE are the federal government - your taxes and mine combine to form the revenue stream that pays for millions and millions of programs that we call the federal government.
So when our eyes look to Washington, we're just actually looking in the mirror. We have three options as I see it. Much more learned folk may have more, I have but three. First, we can start up the printing presses and come up with more cash and allow some future generation to face that debt. But that just won't work in my mind. Second, we can raise taxes and try to juggle the numbers to pay for this added debt. That's just a tad bit unfair. Or third - and the idea I would advocate - we cut other programs to help pay for this new expense.
Were I a betting man, I'd say the first option will win the day. We'll pour good money after bad and let our grandchildren pay the debt. That, my friends, has become the American way.
So what happened to the grand conservative approach? Where is the vocal opposition that says the federal government cannot and should not be the savior of all? I can't answer the question.
I do know this. Tom Delay is an idiot. Delay, who gives every conservative a bad name, pronounced this week that all of the fat had been removed from the federal budget. Who is he kidding? I truly think the man has lost his mind and, to tell the truth, there wasn't much to start with.
But back to Katrina. Do we actually plan to rebuild houses and apartment projects for the hundreds of thousands of displaced residents and just hand them the keys? Here's a clue ladies and gentlemen. You cannot spend your way out of poverty. That's right. You can throw thousands of dollars to every displaced resident and within a year, they will remain in poverty. Sometimes poverty is not just the lack of resources. Sometimes poverty is the total inability of some to live independent of someone else's assistance.
He's my President and I will support him. But George Bush is rapidly shedding the conservative label for political gain. All Americans want to come to the support of those displaced and harmed by this natural disaster. But the real question is how much sacrifice will be forced on us to pay for the circumstances of others.