Size Matters


The current deficit and debt ceiling negotiations happening in Washington represent politics at their worst – politics on steroids.  Amidst the posturing and prevaricating, however, one conservative has emerged with a legitimate plan to liberate America from its bondage of debt.  This week, Senator Tom Coburn released a 600-page plan that would reduce the deficit by $9 trillion over the next ten years by slashing wasteful spending and eliminating an estimated $1 trillion in tax deductions.

The plan is not a gimmick, it’s not smoke and mirrors, and it’s not a media stunt.  Senator Coburn has crafted a proposal that addresses spending in virtually every segment of government, from defense to entitlements, and targets tax deductions that have benefitted special interests on both sides of the aisle for far too long.  

Unfortunately, a brilliant plan is all it is likely to ever be, because the majority of our representatives in Washington (and the special interests that finance them) are unwilling to set aside self interest in favor of principle.  Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, has panned Coburn’s proposal as “outside the conservative mainstream.”  If by “mainstream” Mr. Norquist is referring to the GOP’s tradition of shielding its Blue Blood base from common sense tax reforms, then he’s correct.  On the flip side, of course, are the Democrats, for whom the prospect of reducing the size of government by implementing meaningful spending cuts is anathema.  
This cuts to the heart of the problem and is the reason why so many Americans have grown so cynical about government.  So long as neither side is willing to put all of their cards on the table, nothing but the most benign of “reforms” has any hope of seeing the light of day.  Thus, when the dog-and-pony show unfolding on Capitol Hill finally comes to a close, and nothing substantive is done and nothing changes, the politicians will make excuses and blame the other side; but underneath it all, Congress’s inability to make any progress on runaway spending boils down to a fundamental unwillingness to act.  Members know that the current budget won’t withstand close scrutiny, so they demagogue and demonize anyone who calls for an honest examination of public expenditures and income sources.  

Kudos to Mr. Coburn for having the courage to put something substantive forward, even if it only serves to provoke serious discussion.  We desperately need to have an honest discussion that goes beyond mere rhetoric and takes a hard look at reality.  Calling for the elimination of unwarranted tax loopholes isn’t a call for a tax increase; it’s a call for the restoration of equity and fairness in the tax code.  And pressing for substantive reforms of entitlements isn’t a move to starve Granny, it’s an attempt to restore integrity and solvency to bankrupt programs that threaten to capsize the Republic.  At a time when we are generating red ink by the barrel, every expenditure deserves to be scrutinized; nothing should be exempt.

It’s fitting that on the same day Coburn’s plan was announced, it was reported that the National Institutes of Health provided funding to a study examining “what effect a gay man’s penis size has on his sex life and general well-being.”  This is the kind of ridiculous and frivolous spending that abounds in Washington, and the kind of thing we can no longer afford to indulge in if we want our nation to survive and thrive into the future.  

Thankfully, the American people – unlike their representatives in Washington – still retain a measure of common sense.  They don’t need a government funded study to tell them what they already know: when it comes to budgets and taxpayer funded expenditures, size matters.


About Author

Kenneth L. Connor is the Chairman of the Center for a Just Society, 1220 L St. NW, Suite 100-371, Washington, DC 20005. Email: and website:

  • goral

    Your last paragraph, Mr. Connor, is more wishful thinking than reality. The people at home do have more common sense but what will it matter?

    If the the bus driver is intoxicated, the condition of the passengers is really inconsequential unless some of them take the steering wheel and commandeer the bus that is about to careen off the road.

    We keep repeating the mantra that we are a free people with a Constitution and a gov’t that is responsible.
    The results at the state and federal level don’t confirm that at all.

  • Connor is implying that there is moral equivalence between the Democrats and Republicans, and I don’t think this is the case. The Democrat Party lost its stature when it began officially supporting legal abortion. As a result the Republicans, flawed though they may be, are the only ones who can field legitimate leaders. As Fr. Frank Pavone is always saying, supporting legalized abortion is an automatic disqualification from office.

  • goral

    I think the moral equivalence between the two parties is closer than we’d like to think. In my own state the gay marriage bill was signed by a Rep. governor.
    While the Republicans pay ample lip service to morals and make sure that the Platform is worded to our liking, in practice very little, if any of that rhetoric gets to be law.
    The fact is that we have a ruling class in both parties who proliferate the status quo and will continue to do so because no matter how much the scorpion promises that he won’t hurt the frog, in the end he can only be true to his nature.

    So it is with our elected officials, they can only behave in a way that is consistent with their training within a party controlled system. The representative system is broken, it only works now for the influential, the connected, the “victimized”. The system has been redefined by those who practice nothing but legalism. Soon it will be indistinguishable from any other abusive system on the globe.
    That is why I like to say that we have a tyranny under a system that taxes us with supposed representation.
    In practice we have no mechanism to prevent them from enacting any taxes and burdens and defining them as legal.

    I like what the Tea Party stands for – getting back to a gov’t that is accountable and responsive to the electorate. Isn’t that what we should have had all along?