- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Republicans and deficits

The Office of Management and Budget has projected a drop in the federal budget deficit for 2006 (” ‘06 projected federal deficit falls to $296 billion,” Page 1, yesterday). President Bush immediately held a press conference, but it’s nothing for him to crow about. At $296 billion, the deficit still would be the fourth-largest of all time. The top three also are Mr. Bush’s.

The situation is even worse than these numbers indicate, because, as usual, they do not include the $200 billion or so we’re borrowing from the Social Security surplus — so the real deficit this year is more like $500 billion, or nearly a quarter of the federal budget.

For every $4 Uncle Sam is spending, $3 come from taxes and $1 is borrowed from our children. (Well, from the Chinese and Saudi Arabians, too, but it is our children whose futures will be weighed down with the debt.)

Meanwhile, the interest on all that debt — currently around $350 billion a year — amounted to nearly 40 percent of the $893 billion we paid in personal income tax in 2005. That was at low interest rates and on “only” the $8 trillion in debt. As interest rates rise and the debt itself rises, 40 percent will be seen as the good old days.

I can remember when Republicans thought budget deficits were a bad thing. Remember when they were shouting for a balanced budget amendment? Now that they control the government, the only constitutional amendments they have discussed involve flag desecration and making sure homosexuals can’t get married.

If we were doing all this deficit spending to rescue the states from their own fiscal disasters or to accomplish some fantastic investment to make us more productive in the future that would be scary enough, but we are doing it to reduce the tax burden on the wealthy — with the unintended result, I think, that it will make us all less wealthy.


Iowa City, Iowa

The September 10 mentality

Though it soon will be five years since the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil traumatized the nation with unforgettable grief, the result solidifies the reality that our country must maintain unrelenting vigilance. The anniversary of the London bombings plus the FBI’s recent foiling of a terrorist plot in New York prove that we must remain steadfast in the war on terrorism (“FBI foils New York terror plot,” Page 1, Saturday).

Perhaps Reps. Jim Moran, Virginia Democrat; Jack Kingston, Georgia Republican; and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton should take special notice of current events. In the past, this coterie of politicians was vocal in denouncing vital security initiatives implemented by retired U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer. Mr. Gainer understood the need for necessary security measures, and he proactively strove to impose them at the Capitol. When he did, however, Mr. Moran, Mr. Kingston and Mrs. Norton were quick to criticize his efforts, claiming they were unnecessary.

When Mr. Gainer established an effective horse-mounted unit to facilitate wider patrols in areas not easily accessible by officers on foot or in cruisers, Mr. Moran paved the way for the unit to be disbanded after just 14 months. Mr. Moran engaged support from Mr. Kingston — along with Rep. Jerry Lewis, California Republican — to vote against maintaining the unit.

When terrorists chart their territory for attack, they usually survey the area in advance. The presence of a horse-mounted unit that roams a widespread area and the increased visibility afforded the officers, sitting six feet atop their horses, serve as strong deterrents to those who may be plotting an act of terror.

Further adding insult to injury, Mr. Moran recently demonstrated again his disconcerting attitude toward safety and security on Capitol Hill. When sounds that resembled gunshots resounded at the Capitol, the Capitol Police quickly responded and immediately instituted a lockdown of all buildings so they could investigate for the sake of everyone’s safety. After several hours, the police determined there was no present danger and concluded that a pneumatic hammer, used in nearby construction, was the source of the threatening sounds. Mr. Moran wasted no time in getting on the radio to denounce the actions of the Capitol Police and sound off about the ridiculousness of their efforts. This was outrageous considering that the U.S. Capitol Police were doing all in their power to investigate the source of the sounds.

The recent uncovering of a terrorist plot in New York should jolt some common sense into Mr. Moran and other politicians who naively think assertive measures are not essential. Mr. Gainer was always realistic and fully cognizant of the inherent global dangers that could impact us close to home. Perhaps it is time for Mr. Moran and his fellow politicians to wake up and smell the coffee.


Adjunct professor

George Mason University


Drugs and Afghanistan

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is right to link the drug trade and the resurgent Taliban, as reported in Robert Burns’ Associated Press article “Rumsfeld links drugs, Taliban” (World, Tuesday). However, the defense secretary is mistaken in thinking the ills of the drug trade can be curbed with a press conference and a photo-op.

There are two fronts in the conflict in Afghanistan, one against armed combatants and the other against opium. The coalition is prosecuting the prior with the utmost vigor while attempting to combat the latter on the cheap. It does not matter how many terrorists or Islamist soldiers are killed in the coming years because as long as Afghanistan produces 90 percent of the world’s heroin, it will never be a free and secure nation.

There is no greater insult to the coalition effort to fight opium production than the reliance on Tajik soldiers, ripe with corruption and hungry for bribes, to secure the border with Afghanistan. The Tajik military checkpoints serve as little more than tollbooths on the heroin trail to Europe. For free Afghanistan to survive, the coalition must stop its reliance on untrustworthy help and directly engage the illicit drug industry.

This includes better border security, but it also encompasses locating and destroying local drug factories as well as undertaking eradication efforts in earnest. Gone should be the days in which drug barons and their private armies can operate their tainted industry with impunity while funding America?s enemies. Such efforts will require a greater dedication of manpower and resources than is currently seen or available in Afghanistan. Yet, for the countries of Europe whose streets are plagued with Afghan heroin and which stand the risk of terrorist attack the same as our own, this burden should be taken up, not shrugged off.

Mr. Rumsfeld was right to talk about the drug war in Kabul, but he also must talk about it in Brussels, Berlin, London, Rome, and even Paris.


Research assistant

National Defense Council Foundation


Ignoring Saddam’s WMD arsenal

In his Commentary column on Sunday, “No intelligence (still),” writer Alan Reynolds accuses Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican, and Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, of hyperventilating over the discovery of about 500 artillery rounds containing chemical agents. Actually, Mr. Reynolds is the one who hyperventilates. He claims that to be used, the rounds must be fired from a 55-ton self-propelled howitzer. Actually a 4.5-ton towed howitzer or a four-ounce cellular telephone will do quite nicely.

What causes an artillery round to explode is the fuse. For safety reasons, these are designed to detonate only after they have been fired from the howitzer. However, a clever fellow can design the fuse to detonate after receiving a call from a cellular telephone, thus creating a so-called improvised explosive device.

Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq manufactured and used chemical and biological weapons. The key questions are: Where are they, and if they were destroyed, when and how?



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