To What Are You Entitled and From Whom?

Posted on 09 May 2011

Once again, the word “entitlements” crops up in the quest to save the American economy.  The hew and cry of our elected officials is, “We cannot afford Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for the underprivileged citizens of America.”  Our officials throw words like “unsustainable” and their ilk around, to describe the situation of the richest country on this planet.  Yet, other countries of the world can afford the same entitlements for their citizens!

In most local and State governments across America, comptrollers oversee the fiscal responsibility of the government they represent.  Comptrollers are the ones who control spending. I didn’t know if an Office of the Comptroller existed at the Federal level, because I’d never heard anyone from the Federal government mention it.  So, I wondered, who does oversee and control the spending by our Federal government?

In pursuit of the truth, I typed this question into an Internet search engine, which yielded this result: “The House of Representatives (Congress).”

This is no one, individual Comptroller.  Instead, the House Ways and Means Committee has jurisdiction over all taxes, tariffs, and other revenue raising measures, including:

  • Social Security
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Medicare
  • Enforcement of child support laws
  • Temporary assistance for needy families (the Federal Welfare Program)
  • Foster care and adoption programs

The Constitution of the United States requires that all bills regarding taxation must originate in the House of Representatives, a mandate that makes the House Ways and Means Committee very influential.  Its counterpart is the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.

Chairman Charles Rangel of the 111th Congress came under the investigation of the House Ethics Committee and had to step down until his case was resolved. However, Rangel’s leave of absence was considered a resignation.  When his pro tempis successor, Acting Chairman Pete Stark resigned, Sander Levin stepped in until the Republicans won the House.  Upon that victory, Dave Camp became the new Chairman.

Now that we’ve gotten that straightened out, who is watching the store?  With these two committees overseeing all revenues, how on Earth are we in debt?  If one person — say, Tim Geithner — were making the decisions, we could understand it.  But with two committees, it’s hard to swallow.  Sounds like trouble, right here in River City, with more problems for the House Ethics Committee.

There is an old Biblical quote, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.”   But our lawmakers in Washington are far from Godly.  As human beings, they are subject to all temptations.  So, how can we, as a nation, trust them?

The same people that bestowed the entitlements upon us now want to revoke them, because the two committees did not have the foresight to create an exit strategy.  Before they’d decided to reform programs that affect the welfare of the American people, you would think that they might have considered attacking wasteful spending.  Under the category of “wasteful spending” falls the following:

  • Constructing the Bridge To Nowhere
  • Saving marsh mice in San Francisco
  • Saving tiny fish drying up in the San Joachim Valley
  • Sending military and financial Aid to 148 of the 192 countries in this world (see the video clip in the article “Who’s Getting Hosed” on our site).
  • Last but not least: The self-proposed endowments of our elected leaders, which make their future rosy even as the rest of the country gets flushed down the toilet.   I think they took a page out of Emperor Nero’s book.  As you may recall, he fiddled while Rome burned.

The answer to the question of how we tax and spend should be “by the will of the American people.”  Maybe it’s time to elect an ad hoc group to oversee the guys who hold our nation’s purse strings.

Before I leave you to cogitate on this, I’d like to sum up with a quote posted in a little mom and pop store during the Great Depression.  It read, “In God we trust; all others pay cash.” 

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