Thursday, February 19, 2009

That grand old umbrage

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Two stories from the This Changes Everything Department:

* Blackwater Security Worldwide Inc., which has run up a portfolio of atrocities under contract in Iraq, has changed its name to Xe. (Pronounced "Z.")

* Meanwhile the Republican Party, having unashamedly run up debt for eight years, has renamed itself the Prudence Party.

Members of the PP, Prudes for short, can say they opposed deficit spending from the start, since the party's new brand wasn't around for the Reagan administration or either of the Bush administrations.

Hence, duly rebranded, the party can assail Barack Obama's stimulus bill with near religiosity. For debt runs against the very core of the party's newly minted principles.

When the then Republican Party was running up debt, putting two wars off-budget, awarding "cost-plus" contracts to the likes of Halliburton and Blackwater (Xe), we weren't supposed to worry our handsome little heads over the matter.

Recent reports about corruption in Iraq reconstruction (a term now certifiably oxymoronic) should make every American shudder. It ranges from shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills that spread with the desert winds to bid-rigging and bribes that may have enriched U.S. military honchos, according to The New York Times.

Reports the Times, the $125 billion spent "to improve services and convince Iraqis of American good will, largely managed to do neither." Oh, well. It's only money.

So, now we have a major spending bill directed at — of all things — tending to matters on these shores. And we have the born-again Prudence Party in full flower.

No one can look at the stimulus measure and not worry about the size and added debt incurred. We can all debate whether some of the measures are true stimulus components or simply things an activist White House wants addressed.

One thing about this package, though: It's all there for you to examine, along with built-in apparatuses to monitor how the money is spent.

Will it stimulate? Of course, it will. The combination of tax cuts and spending will get things moving.

Will we recoup the cost? Probably not. At some point when the economy is righted we need to dispense with the notion that we can have this government (including a military that spans the globe) without paying what it costs. Yes, raise taxes. Yes, on all of us.

Back when Bill Clinton signed a bill raising taxes on upper incomes, the opposition predicted economic catastrophe. Some catastrophe. Before the end of his administration, for the first time in a generation, our government actually was buying back its bonds, paying down debt.

If you are really serious about debt, you see, you acknowledge that we've bought more government than we are willing to pay for. You say it's time to pay for it.

Who was going to pay for our armed venture in Iraq? No one prosecuting the notion gave it a thought.

Yes, Prudence, it's time to give thought to the debts we are accumulating.

Rest assured, however, were the Republicans still the party in power, the current economic crisis would have caused them to raise the national debt further as they leaned on the one-trick pony of tax cuts.

Voters chose another pony.

John Young is opinion editor of the Waco (Texas) Tribune-Herald. E-mail:

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