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20 Nov 2011 - Which Ox to Gore

A Congressman recently told me that they need traffic police in the hallways of the House and Senate Office Buildings on Capitol Hill because they are packed with lobbyists going from one office to the next to make sure their programs are not cut or sacrificed in the debt-reduction debate going on in the Super Committee.

We all remember this past summer when we avoided a financial calamity by forming what is called a ‘Super Committee” to come up with a debt-reduction program of well over a trillion-dollars by November 23rd. Well, here we are. The Super Committee has been working hard according to all reports and it is probably the least popular job in Washington right now because they are getting hammered by lobbyists from every segment of the economy and the tax-paying public, and that includes agricultural groups.

I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t feel we need to cut government spending; they all say "Yes, severe cuts need to be made." On the other hand I have yet to talk to anyone who will say "…so cut my program." With every person, with every group, the line is “gore someone else’s ox, don’t gore mine because my program is critically important."

Even though the Department of Agriculture budget is about 1% of the federal budget, the lobbying for USDA programs has been intense. Nutrition programs account for nearly 2/3rd of the budget, but don’t cut those programs. Lobbyists for soil and water conservation, agricultural research, a farm safety net, export promotion and food safety all say the same thing….these programs are critical to the well-being of the country.

So… the question begs, 'whose ox will be gored?'. I can’t imagine the pressure on the members of the Super Committee as well as all members of Congress right now as lobbyists and their constituents apply the pressure.

But if we are truly serious about avoiding a repeat of the volatile world markets we saw last summer and the current global impact of the Euro Zone debt crisis, then we must insist that our government does what most of us have to do, live within a budget. That means sacrifice on the part of all of us and everyone’s ox needs to be gored.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.