We have met our enemy

Published 9:42 am Friday, January 18, 2013

by Robert “Bob” Holt

When I was growing up in Franklin, we had two basic fears.

The first was that the Union of Soviet Socialists Republic, then led by Premier Nikita Khrushchev, would destroy the United States. He announced in 1956 in Moscow that the Soviet Union would “bury” the United States.

Its early victories in the race to dominate outer space beginning with the launch in 1957 of its Sputnik satellite were a clear sign to the world that the Soviet Union had the technological skills to launch a satellite into space and control its actions. Only 23 inches in diameter, this metal satellite beamed radio signals to Earth.

In October 1962, Khrushchev started sending ballistic nuclear missiles to Cuba. President Kennedy reacted with a naval blockade preventing the further delivery of these powerful missiles.

Fortunately, the Soviet ships carrying these missiles returned to the USSR.

Our second fear was that we would be attacked by beings from the planet Mars. Vivid stories of little green men with large oval eyes and three-fingered hands landing on Earth via flying saucer-like spaceships served to exacerbate this perception.

Sightings of UFOs dominated the news. People reported being taken captive by the Martians, studied and returned to Earth unharmed.

The secrecy surrounding the 1947 crash of a still undocumented object in Roswell, N.M., and H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds” movie in 1953 further added to the mystique of Martians taking over the Earth.

Today the fears of many informed Americans revolve around our national financial situation. Our $16.4 trillion federal government debt is so extraordinary that many scholars feel it will never be paid back.

That level amounts to $52,200 for every U.S. citizen, or $146,000 for every taxpayer.

Our federal government has not passed a budget in four years. There is very little emphasis on reducing spending, opting instead to spend more and more for pet projects that, in many cases, do not produce the results for which they were intended.

Solyndra, a company formed to produce solar panels for green energy, in 2009 received a $535 million guaranteed loan from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the Stimulus Program. It built a manufacturing facility in California and hired 1,100 employees.

Private investors contributed $75 million. Solyndra closed in August 2011 and filed for bankruptcy. For some unexplained and unbelievable reason, the Department of Energy agreed just before the bankruptcy filing to allow the private investors to be reimbursed from bankruptcy proceeds ahead of our federal government.

Basically, we taxpayers lost $535 million.

It is obvious that the federal government is out of control, and its budget is unmanageable. Most state governments have a balanced budget amendment preventing them from spending more than they take in.

Except in extreme situations, we should do the same at the federal level. Also, many federal functions such as education and disaster relief should be transferred to the states since they are closer to the people affected and, therefore, much more accountable.

The “one size fits all” philosophy of the federal government dictating rules and regulations for everyone across all states no longer is appropriate nor is it working.

Robert N. “Bob” Holt, a Franklin native, is a professor of business management and real estate at Southwestern Community College in Sylva, N.C. His email address is hrobert@vt.edu.