Government needs to operate within its means

Published 10:42 am Saturday, January 28, 2012

by Ash Cutchin

It has been a busy week so far, busy and interesting, culminating in the president’s national campaign speech — state of the union message Tuesday night.

I managed to stay awake, absolutely dazzled by most of his assertions and solutions. During his talk, I was reminded of the similarities that exist between local and national politics, and how the people in charge always seem to want more.

Our week began Monday night, with Charles Turner, superintendent of Southampton County Schools, and his annual plea for more money. He continued with his threats to lay off employees.

To prevent chaos, he needs the $1.6 million that he did not spend last year to continue the remaining 2012 school year. It seems that a shortfall in both state contributions and federal stimulus funds are creating a hole, which must be filled from local sources.

And like the disastrous national debt situation, those sources are drying up. During both Turner’s hour and the president’s hour, I could not help but recall an article I read in the magazine Cotton Farming by Texas cotton grower Ronnie Hopper entitled “Finding Solutions.”

Hopper has given me permission to repeat some of his comments, which I interspersed with some of my own.

“The facts are there for anyone who cares to look. We have an individual responsibility — a special duty — during this election cycle to look for political facts and separate them from political fiction. One fact is for certain; our culture has changed dramatically.

Now we have a culture of impunity where many people think that no one should be punished or even held accountable when a law is broken, whether by a lawmaker, a sports figure, a celebrity, or anyone else. Millions of good men and women play by the rules. They go to work, raise their families, do the right thing, and quietly go about their everyday lives.”

Ronald Reagan is quoted as saying, “We must reject the idea that every time a law is broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”

Mr. Hopper says, “In times past, those who were in the public trust were held to a higher standard, as they should be. Good governance is not rocket science; it is simply honest men and women seeking to do the right thing.”

The current president says he wants a level playing field. He says he thinks that millionaires should pay their fair share. Yet the top 2 percent of taxpayers in this country already pay about 38 percent of the federal income taxes; the top 10 percent pay about 70 percent of federal income taxes and an amazing 47 percent pay no federal income tax.

Mr. President, I do not see how that is a level playing field with everyone playing by the same set of rules. I received an email today from an old high school buddy that says, “The problems we face today exist because the people who work for a living are outnumbered by those who vote for a living.”

When that 47 percent plus or minus creeps up to 51 percent and higher, as it surely seems to be doing, where do we go from there but down the same road as Greece?

Mr. Hopper continues, “A culture of fiscal irresponsibility exists in our government today. In addition, the banking industry and Wall Street are no longer held in high esteem.”

My bankers have always insisted that I have collateral and the ability to make payments. And lending more money to those heavily in debt can only postpone the inevitable default.

My family (and my bankers) also taught me that if your outgo exceeds your income you would eventually go broke. I ask President Obama and Congress, as well as the Southampton County Supervisors, “Are you listening.” Did anyone mention Greece?

One final thought. If throwing money at a problem would fix the problem, then we would have no unemployment, no housing crisis, no poorly educated citizens, and our auto industry would be the envy of the world. That hasn’t happened.

Mr. Hopper reminds us, and you’ve heard it before, “Our problem is not a taxing problem or a revenue problem, it is a spending problem. We need a change in attitude of the American people and our government leaders.”

Those are the facts. Now we need to get to work. It is almost November.

ASH CUTCHIN is a Courtland resident and owner of Ash Cutchin Real Estate Appraisals and can be reached at