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From the Desk of
County Commissioner Paul Smith

Cure congress of the "III Syndrome"

(6/11) Right now the biggest issues before congress and the president are whether to cut government entitlements and whether to raise the national debt limit. This is a very difficult issue for congress because unless you hold a gun to its head they won’t cut anybody’s entitlement benefits. However, the nation has reached the point where some entitlements will have to be cut. Republicans are prepared to make significant cuts, but democrats and the president are not prepared to make so many cuts because they are inflicted with the "iii syndrome." (I will explain what it is below.) the big national issue is identifying which entitlements will be cut.

Based upon current news reports, there will begin to be some cuts in entitlement programs. These cuts will trickle down to local government, causing a reduction in some services for which the county was the direct provider. When this happens, county services will be scaled back in proportion to fund cuts. This will have a great impact on the few people whose entitlement benefits are cut. But it will have only a negligible impact on local taxpayers. Therefore, this type of issue will be debated, discussed and fought primarily on the federal level—not on the county level. Nevertheless, our role as citizens and local officials is to let our federal leaders know that we support making necessary cuts in entitlement spending so that we can bring all levels of government in line with good spending practices. We cannot continue to spend more than we bring in. Frederick county gets it. Our concern now is to help the state of Maryland, the u. s. congress and the president to also get it.

The problem in making entitlement cuts is that it almost always results in cutting off financial benefits to some people. How could you be so cold to cut benefits to these people? That was the question that was thrown at the BOCC when we cut the county contribution to head start. And that will be the same question thrown at every legislative body that decides to cut an entitlement. And only legislators with vertebrae will be able to stand up to this inevitable criticism. It will also take legislators with a certain amount of grey matter to have the intelligence to eliminate some entitlements.

The intelligence factor comes into play because the logical result of unrestrained entitlement spending is financial ruin. The problem is that many people do not apply to big government the fiscal policies by which they personally live. For example, the average joe knows that he cannot continue to send out contribution checks to his favorite charities when he runs out of money. But the same average joe doesn’t always insist that the government abide by the same fiscal policy; some people insist that the state and federal government must provide entitlement benefits to those in need whether or not there are tax monies to fund it. They have learned that entitlements can be funded on credit. Some people have no qualms about borrowing money from china or from future generations of Americans if that is what it takes to fund entitlements. This is irresponsible, irrational and ignorant thinking—call it the "iii syndrome." Some in congress are more infected with this syndrome than others. But whoever is afflicted with this syndrome must take immediate corrective measures, or else it will ruin the national economy.

The current recession/depression has caused all levels of government to make cuts and to increase efficiencies. Frederick county has certainly taken many measures in balancing our budget with shrinking revenues. The county is forced to have a balanced budget. Unfortunately, the federal government has not shown any reasonable inclination to live within a balanced budget. Now, I recognize there are times when the federal government may need to pass an unbalanced budget. (That was the case in the first years of our nation’s history.) but it is irresponsible, irrational and ignorant for congress to pass laws giving entitlement benefits that cause an unbalanced budget. Note, again—this is the "iii syndrome."

If congress does not cure the "iii syndrome" that is afflicting its members, then eventually, by ever increasing our debt and ever funding handouts to more and more people, we will bring about two simultaneous results: (1) we will weaken our military and economic strength (vis-B-vis the Chinese) so that the safety of our nation and our people will be in jeopardy. And (2) we will cultivate a nation of undisciplined, dependent people who would gladly sell their liberty for security—only to learn, too late, that they have lost both.

Meanwhile, back in the county—we will continue to make reasonable changes to our government so that we cut costs, increase efficiencies and continue to operate within a shrinking budget. It is my hope that the first public prayer offered at a BOCC meeting will invoke god’s assistance in curing congress of the "iii syndrome."

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