Posted: Thursday, October 07, 2010 10:00 AM
November's elections will mark a turning point for Congress -- or they should.
Instead of the profligate spending on political pet projects, it is a time when our elected representatives and senators should take up the pressing issues of the day, not the wishes of the majority party.
Health care -- a priority in the eyes of only a few -- is one example of how Congress used up much of its goodwill with the public to push its agenda.
The result was a law larger than the Los Angeles phone book and filled with unintended consequences -- and other "bonuses" such as heightened 1099 reporting requirements. Starting in 2012, all business operators must report to the Internal Revenue Service any payments to suppliers totaling more than $600 per year.
The result will be a blizzard of paperwork for most businesses -- and billions of forms for the Internal Revenue Service to warehouse.
That's a "benefit" of the health care act that proponents such as President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi don't mention.
What they do talk about is that parents will be able to keep their kids on their health insurance policy until age 26. What most parents wish for their kids by the time they reach that age is a strong economy so they can get a meaningful job, not further recognition that the economy is still in the tank.
The only economic revival going on has been in the form of huge checks written to Wall Street big shots, who were rescued from their disastrous mistakes, and bailouts to states primarily aimed at keeping public employee unions happy.
Congress for each of the past two years has run up a $1.4 trillion deficit. That means the federal government -- all of us -- must borrow 41 cents for every dollar it spends.
No matter what your politics are, that sort of overspending is irresponsible.
Had congressional leaders not been so distracted by their misguided priorities, they would have noticed that the parade they were leading had precious few followers. Americans are desperate for jobs, not of the make-work kind or to bolster the federal and state bureaucracies but of the kind that will support a family and a future.
That means private business, not more government.
Yet what happened in Congress was a shopping spree for influence that generations of American taxpayers will have to repay. Few Americans believe the redistribution of wealth from future generations to present-day politicians will work.
Political pundits from inside the Washington, D.C., Beltway are aghast that the non-denominational Tea Party sprouted amid this loss of fiscal sanity. They think this is just a variation on archconservative Republican themes of the past.
Far from it, the Tea Party consists of both Democrats and Republicans -- and independents -- who believe borrow-and-spend policies not only didn't buoy the economy but in fact chained a cinder block to it.
That both parties see fiscally conservative citizens as a threat is an indication of how far afield congressional incumbents of all stripes have wandered.
For agriculture, the next Congress will write a new farm bill, the keystone piece of legislation for the USDA. It will provide the roadmap for how the federal bureaucracy will handle everything from food stamps to specialty crops.
The unfortunate fact that Congress has dug such a deep fiscal hole will certainly have a huge impact on that farm bill. No matter which party controls Congress, look for deep cuts in nearly every program.
For farmers who rely on these programs to keep their heads above water in the event of a drought, flood or other disaster, this will be a difficult bill to swallow.