Cut spending? Gimme a break.

Candidates spent $4 billion on the mid-term elections.

What was the battle cry that won the day?  “Stop spending!”

Those who said it loudest spent the most.

That is, the tea party folks talk the most about frugality, but they’re the least frugal when it comes to spending money.

Rand Paul, the champion of cutting spending, spent over $10 million on the general election — in Kentucky!

He bought so much advertising that some of the local television stations ran out of time “inventory.”

We like to spend money on eBay so much that Meg Whitman can afford to drop $160 million on her own campaign (a new record).

She’s worth $1.3 billion.

Russ Feingold, a class act liberal and bipartisan senator for 17 years, lost to Ron Johnson in Wisconsin.

Johnson, a tea party guy who, according to himself, wants to ‘stop all the spending,’ spent over $8 million — four times the amount Feingold spent.

But alas, this will continue.  Our Supreme Court has decided that corporate money equals free speech.  It’s doubtful those who won — the ones who benefited most from this money — will pass legislation that stops the flow to their own campaigns.

The problem with government spending is not government spending.  It’s a big country and a big government.  The problem is that our understanding is minimal and our priorities are distorted.

And there are groups that are willing to spend a lot of money to make sure it stays distorted.

If they would start with cutting campaign spending by creating a system with public funding of elections, it would save a lot of money, be more informative, be more positive — and make for a healthier mood in the country and a better democracy.

But that would require a cut in spending.

upside down rhetoric on government

At election time, here in Rowan County, North Carolina, I’m almost always on the losing side. But I can’t remember, in my lifetime, a more frustrating set of arguments.

It occurs to me that the political rhetoric coming from the right is completely upside down.

The things government can do, they want government not to do.

The things government cannot do, they expect government to do.

The government can do a lot to provide health care to all people.  It’s a proven fact.  Many governments have done it very successfully — including ours.

Yet, the rhetoric coming from the right is for government to stay out of health care and leave it entirely to the private sector.

The government can do a lot to educate people (children and adults).  This is a proven fact.  Many countries have done this very successfully, including our own.

But some on the right even want government to step away from education.

Government can provide a safety net for those who are unable to work. This is a matter of common decency in a civilized society.  Yet, cutting aid to the poor and disabled is a loud battle cry from the right.

Energy.  European countries have cut consumption by passing policies that conserve energy.

Yet, Reagan eliminated Carter’s tax credits for solar energy.  In 2000, Bush mocked Gore for suggesting we produce hybrid cars.  And the opposition to energy conservation goes on and on…

Government is even pretty good at running prisons. Yet, there are movements to privatize this.

The government cannot control oil spills.

The government can control unnecessary war.

But the biggest matzah ball of all is employment.

This is mostly a private sector problem.  The government can only do a few things that affect employment around the edges.

And yet, the campaign rhetoric from the right is “jobs jobs jobs.”

If we take them seriously, which is not easy, they actually want government not to do anything around the edges, but still create the jobs.

Government cannot create tens of millions of jobs.

It can help with the long-term, allocating funds to research and infrastructure, which can lead to millions of jobs in the future — and has done so with much success in the past.

But Republicans criticize this kind of spending.

The Republicans campaign on wanting government to do what it cannot do, and not to do what it can.

If something’s not working right and needs improvement — they seem to cite that as justification to cut it altogether.

If you think about it, it’s really frustrating!  Which is why it’s best not to think about it.

That said, the Democrats still have a lot better record on jobs and budget deficits than Republicans.