St. George, Utah
The debate is raging on Capitol Hill about what should be done to stimulate the economy. The recession continues to hit new depths, and the one thing that there is agreement on with many lawmakers is that something must be done.
The questions, however, relate to what should be done and at what cost.
Estimates put a stimulus package backed by the Barack Obama administration at almost $1 trillion. Such a move could push the federal budget deficit to more than $1.5 trillion and the overall national debt to more than $10 trillion.
It's an obscene amount of money and a crushing debt that will have to be shouldered by our children, grandchildren and - at this rate - great-grandchildren and beyond. While some form of intervention by the federal government may be needed, closer scrutiny of what will be spent also is needed.
Take, for example, the $700 billion stimulus plan passed by the Democratic Congress and signed by former President George W. Bush. The way the money has been used was so poorly monitored that there is almost no way to know how much of the taxpayers' money was wasted. We simply can't afford a repeat.
Congress must turn a much more watchful eye toward monitoring the spending of any taxpayers' money. One group that could play a significant role in that effort is the Blue Dog Coalition - a group comprised mostly of Democrats who push for more conservative measures in the realm of economics. This group has grown to 47 members by sticking to the message that our practices today shouldn't create obstacles for future generations. A growing deficit and corresponding national debt do both.
The Blue Dogs could be the people's watchdogs. To do so, they will have to be more vocal than ever and will have to make some public statements in committee hearings and from the House floor if there is ever going to be a change.
The reality is that stimulus packages have become the "pork-barrel" spending of the 21st century. Everyone wants a piece of the action. Even Utah is asking for billions of dollars in stimulus money.
In some cases, that money is going to be spent wisely to save jobs and to keep communities intact. In some cases, the money could be squandered or go toward projects that benefit only a few when it could be used to assist many.
There's no doubt that this is a large task. Admittedly, the nation is in uncharted territory with this economic downturn. Now is a time for fresh ideas and for a willingness to learn from past mistakes.
It's a time for leadership.
Whether it's the Blue Dogs, Republicans or elected officials of some other ilk, we need to see our lawmakers scrutinizing any further spending they way they research and criticize campaign opponents. They need to show the public that they are working to find the best solution that costs the least amount of money.
A bad decision now could cost our nation even more down the road.