Deficits are back-and once again the problem is spending
The federal government is in the hole again after four years of "surpluses." The Bush administration blames this year's $165 billion deficit on costs related to the war on terrorism and a steep decline in revenue from capital gains taxes and other receipts linked to the volatile stock market.
There is another cause the administration is reluctant to mention: outrageous, unwarranted, self-serving congressional spending. Democrats and Republicans are exploiting the war on terror to pass record new spending measures.
Citizens Against Government Waste keeps tabs on unnecessary spending. In a June 14 essay, CAGW President Tom Schatz wrote, "The federal budget this year contained $159 billion in total pork, corporate welfare and general waste"-approximating the size of the deficit.
According to the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, last year was the first time in a decade that members of both parties in both houses of Congress had net average agendas that would increase federal spending. Of 5,501 bills introduced in 2001, just 50 would reduce spending, says the NTUF. The GOP, supposedly the party of smaller government, lower taxes, individual freedom, and reduced spending, has few members who still believe in such things.
As Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth, wrote in The Wall Street Journal, "Over the past year and a half, government has been the single fastest growth sector of the economy. It has grown faster than construction, services, housing, and even consumer spending." Mr. Moore notes that in 2001, the private sector, which suffered from the recession, grew a paltry 0.5 percent, but government spending was up 6 percent for the year. For the first quarter of this year, data indicates that private-sector activity rose by 5 percent as the economic recovery kicked in.
But government's spending soared twice as fast.
President Bush has a unique opportunity in an election year to challenge Congress to do the patriotic thing and stop this gross misspending. But he'll have to convince congressional Republicans to go along. He should recall the words of Ronald Reagan, who observed that we have a deficit not because the American people are taxed too little, but because their government spends too much. | Cal Thomas (©2002 Tribune Media Services, Inc.)
While some Americans want reparations for the descendants of long-ago slaves, others are calling for compensation for living former slaves. Those former slaves are aging World War II veterans who are suing such Japanese companies as Mitsubishi and Mitsui for forcing them to perform slave labor as prisoners during the war. But the State Department wants the suits thrown out. The agency's lawyers say a California law that allows such suits interferes with U.S. foreign policy and is unconstitutional. The lawsuits, they say, violate a 1951 treaty that waived any rights to reparations from Japan. California Deputy Attorney General Angela Sierra argues that the law only extends the statute of limitations for past crimes and has "nothing to do with the present Japanese government." A ruling is expected this fall. "This really isn't about money. It's about holding them accountable," 84-year-old ex-POW Joseph Della Malva said. "We paid a penalty greater than anybody understands ... and then our own government tells us we don't deserve that. Can you believe it?" Only 5,300 of the 36,000 American servicemen captured by Japan are still living.
President Bush's promotion of charitable choice-welfare legislation that permits faith-based social-service programs to receive government funding-seeks only to "regularize and expand what [already] is an existing public-policy practice," university researchers found in a recent study of welfare-to-work initiatives. The study examined 500 such programs in Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Among its findings: Faith-based programs accounted for about a quarter of those studied, and nearly half of them integrate religious elements into the services they provide. About half receive government funding, including more than four in 10 that integrate faith in their programs. Few of those that receive government grants reduce their religious emphasis afterward. Also: One in five faith-based programs that applied for government funding were turned down, compared to only 7 percent of similar applications by secular nonprofits. And faith-based programs use far more volunteers in a typical month than do the secular nonprofits. The details are in a report of the study, "Working Faith: How Religious Organizations Provide Welfare-to-Work Services," by Stephen V. Monsma, a political science professor at Pepperdine University. The Center for Research on Religion and Urban Society at the University of Pennsylvania carried out the study. | Edward E. Plowman
For an unprecedented second year in a row, Bruce Wilkinson's Prayer of Jabez won the "Book of the Year" award in the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association's annual Gold Medallion competition. The thin book, on the New York Times bestseller list for months, has sold over 5.5 million copies so far and spawned other products and titles. Mr. Wilkinson, 55, earlier this year stepped down from the Atlanta-based Walk Thru the Bible ministry he founded 25 years ago to produce films and videos. Following an extensive ministry trip to Africa in May, he scrapped plans to move to Hollywood. Instead, he said, he and his family will move to South Africa next month and stay for several years to help the hungry and AIDS victims, including orphans. A film company he started, Ovation Productions, already has a team of 65 people in South Africa filming a story based on a young boy who loses his parents to AIDS. | Edward E. Plowman
A three-judge panel in Toronto ruled unanimously on July 12 that the Ontario provincial government must recognize homosexual marriages. The court found that Canada's official definition of marriage, limiting it to a pact between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional. It cited the country's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which bans discrimination. The court gives the federal government two years to redefine marriage; otherwise the ruling will apply only to the province. The ruling came in response to a suit filed by two homosexual couples against the Ontario government after it refused to register the marriage following their joint wedding ceremony at a Toronto church in January 2001. The couples asked the court to compel the province to recognize the ceremonies as legally binding. Canada's Supreme Court will be asked to settle the core issue eventually. The British Columbia high court in a similar case last October declined to broaden the definition of marriage. It also said Parliament cannot redefine marriage in the absence of a constitutional amendment. That decision is under appeal, and another similar case is being thrashed out in Quebec. The Ontario decision sent shockwaves through many Canadian churches. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada decried the court's failure to grant any right of religious or conscientious objection. If marriage is redefined contrary to the way God ordained it, a spokesman warned, the evangelical community may be forced to "rethink its participation in state-recognized marriage." | Edward E. Plowman
Preachers at the long-running Brownsville revival in Pensacola, Fla., in the late 1990s often cried "Fire! Fire!" as they summoned God's Spirit to fall upon congregants gathered at the altar. This month, fire of the damaging type enveloped Brownsville Assembly of God. Lightning struck the roof of the 2,200-seat church on July 4 and set it on fire. The blaze caused an estimated $1 million in damage. Insurance will pay for repairs, to be completed by Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, church services are being held in the church's 2,500-seat Family Life Center next door.