Poor planning’s results hit home

Steve Brown's picture

We can rarely escape the consequences of our choices.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has our national debt pegged at $1.2 trillion (a staggering 8.3 percent of our gross domestic product) for the year. If President-elect Barack Obama’s sweeping stimulus package is enacted, it could add nearly $1 trillion or more to the red ink over two years.

We all wish we could get a “do-over” on the federal government’s decision to reduce regulatory enforcement on the financial sector. It is now easy to grasp the fact there must have been a reason why those regulations were created in the first place.

Overall, our total national debt now stands at $10.64 trillion (roughly $37,000 for every man, woman and child in the U.S.). According to the National Debt Clock, the nation’s debt has continued to increase an average of $3.42 billion per day since Sept. 28, 2007. The deeper we dig the hole, the tougher it is to get out.

When I was in fifth grade — a long time ago — a billion was the biggest number we could imagine. But to my little fifth grader, the term “trillion” will, unfortunately, become commonplace.

In the same manner, leading up to the year 2017, the phrase “societal collapse” will also become routine as Social Security and Medicare fail (the two emerging crises Congress continues to neglect).

We need to pray our future generations are not stuck with the value of “quadrillion” when they discuss their national debt.

It now appears our state elected officials are going to raid $525 million from the reserves of the state Health Benefit Plan (covering 690,000 state employees, schoolteachers, dependents and retirees) in order to soften the blow of current budget cuts to local school systems and state departments. Groups such as the Georgia Association of Educators unwisely support the effort. The funds from ransacking the reserves would only last until June 30.

The state’s actions are mocking the foolish exploits of many corporations and governments who either raided or continuously deferred payments to their defined benefit plans, only to find themselves in very deep trouble years later. Hey, did we not do the same thing with the Social Security Trust Fund? Were those IOUs ever repaid to the fund?

State law prohibits the direct withdrawal of the reserve funds from the state Health Benefit Plan. Well, I wonder why that law was created. It was probably a decent attempt to keep state officials from accomplishing what they now plan to do.

The Fayette County Board of Education (FCBOE) practically exhausted their reserve funds long before our current national economic crisis. I told several teachers in our school system that the promises made by FCBOE members on what would be accomplished with the passage of an E-SPLOST were far-fetched.

In reality, I cannot see how they can avoid laying off some teachers and paraprofessionals since they drained all of their past reserves.

The Logsdon administration in Peachtree City is continuing to butcher the process of sound planning in our community. One of the mayor’s largest campaign contributors is asking for a rezoning that includes more residential units.

Pathway Communities wants to build 80 residential units on land zoned for general industrial use. How do you think Mayor Logsdon will vote on the rezoning?

It was Mayor Logsdon, along with Council Members Boone and Plunkett, who created a planning dilemma in the West Village, known as Wilksmoor, by leaving a large swath of industrial land adjacent to parcels they annexed and zoned residential. Now that land will probably be rezoned for houses and townhomes also.

With the Pathway proposal, turning general industrial zoned property into residential in the midst of an area already developed as industrial is extremely shortsighted. This has been done in the past and problems followed.

They want to place more houses in the immediate flight path of Falcon Field. Why can’t they just follow our land plans?

We are throwing our land planning abilities out the window. We are going to endure the consequences of these denser, poorly placed residential developments from the city council in the future.

I truly miss the days when we had men and women who had the courage to demand that we adhere to the land plans. Most of those people, the ones who put the interests of the citizenry over the developer profit, have died or are infirmed.

Unfortunately, we now have local homeowners who cave in and back harmful development proposals and ask to us settle for second best, even if it ruins traffic and does not follow planning standards.

It is a terrible shame that Peachtree City is even considering sharp cuts in the hours of our library. We have read, “Where your money is, there your heart will also be.” The library is our city’s investment in the intellectual capital of our community.

But, you might think, this is a bad economy and the mayor and council are reacting to the circumstances of the day.

I would have more empathy for their library cuts (saving $28,841) if they had not used $1.5 million to bailout the illegal loans of the Development Authority, spent over $60,000 on an unbudgeted bicycle race, paid for expensive trips to China with no benefit to the taxpayers and passed deficit budgets year after year, robbing funds from the reserves (Councilmen Haddix and Sturbaum were not in office during most of these events).

Our tax dollars and the council’s heart have been in the wrong place.

The financial consequences of those decisions could have easily covered many of the destructive cuts we must now endure. A lack of discipline can get you into an awful lot of trouble.

[Steve Brown is the former mayor of Peachtree City. He can be reached at stevebrownptc@ureach.com.]

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Submitted by PTC Observer on Wed, 01/14/2009 - 2:13pm.

It would be out of business.

Government is the only social entity that gets more money for poor results.

Luckly government can print is own money so that's not a problem, except of course for its future generations.

Asking the government to solve problems is like asking the arsonist to put out the fire!

Assets are only valuable if someone is willing and able to buy them. As I recall government is not selling assets they are buying them, I think this is called nationalizing. It is socialism pure and simple.

The government is the problem, it's not capitalism or free markets. We will see just how big a problem it is over the next several years.

Submitted by Claude Y Paquin on Tue, 01/13/2009 - 5:50pm.

It is perhaps true that the national debt is $37,000 for every man, woman and child in the U.S.

But what is the national wealth of the country?

Don’t we own a lot of government buildings, hospitals, roads, bridges, national parks (with untold mineral resources), aircraft, navy ships, etc. Don’t we also own a lot of intellectual property? Isn’t the U.S. like a big corporation, with valuable knowledgeable and well-trained personnel who are an asset to our country?

If the U.S. were a corporation, it would have a great deal of value. Why don’t we try to calculate it, sometime, and see if it does not come up well over $37,000 per man, woman and child?

I agree we should not waste money. But spending on education is an investment. Our educated population is a valuable asset. Our working democracy and our government institutions are an asset.

We will leave all of that to our children and grandchildren. When we educate them, we spend money, but we create an asset. When we improve medical care for our people, we improve their lives, and all the medical vaccines and procedures developed on our watch are assets we’ll leave our children and grandchildren.

So let’s stop the moaning and groaning about the national debt. Our financial institutions must be made to work properly for us, but we must rise above this absurd idea that we are unconscionably burdening future generations with debt, as we are also leaving them a great country.

Many of our best physicians, to use one example, could not have gone through medical school without getting into debt. If they had succumbed to the fear of getting into debt, they would never have realized their dream and developed their full economic potential. It can be the same with a country.

Debt incurred on a rational basis for a worthwhile purpose can be beneficial. If we leave our children a million-dollar house with a $100,000 mortgage, so what?

Claude Y. Paquin

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Submitted by Steve Brown on Wed, 01/14/2009 - 12:45pm.

I truly understand Claude’s position on “national wealth” being a consideration. And, certainly, if we leave our children a million-dollar house with a $100,000 mortgage, who should complain?

The pertinent question in the national debt debate is, “Where do you draw the line?” I ask that question in relation to financial accountability and the responsibility of the leadership.

What happens if we leave our children a house we paid $1 million for but is now valued at $550,000 and there is a $750,000 mortgage?

Will we have to send the Washington Monument to Beijing as collateral on their loan for the national debt?

GM and Chrysler have an abundance of valuable assets, but are they still relevant?

It is the irresponsibility associated with current spending and the lack of accountability that bother me the most. Major financial institutions had to complete a two page form that my children could fill out to get billions from the federal government - no questions asked (literally).

Remember, during WWII, the national debt was around 22 percent of GDP,but no one was complaining. Survival and pork are two different things.

Submitted by mysteryman on Sun, 01/18/2009 - 1:15pm.

My old man taught me that if the truck breaks down fix it, if it needs tires get some. We all know that person who changes cars like some do clothes, has to have the latest techno gadgets, and is always concerned about what others have. Running with the Joneses so to say.. Well folks this is what running with the Joneses gets ya...BROKE. Last week a family across the street was moving out after 15 years of residence, when i walked over to talk to my freind, he said they just could not make it anymore, and that they were walking away from their home of 15 years. I wished my friend good luck, and as i walked away i could not help but notice, The plasma t.v. being loaded on the U-HAUL as well as the Hummer with a trailer full of four wheelers hooked to it in the driveway, then there was the 28 foot cabin cruiser at the side of the garage. Then his wife arrived in a brand new Caddilac with the dealer plates still on it. Guess they figured they sould walk away in style ehh... Seems to me folks that before i walked away from my home all of that stuff would have been long gone. But then again i still drive my dads 85 Ford f-250..BLESS...

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