02/19/11 — Going gets tough: It's funny how some people will talk about spending cuts -- but that's all

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Going gets tough: It's funny how some people will talk about spending cuts -- but that's all

In theory, it is an easy sell.

Your constituents say your budget is bloated and that they feel like you are spending too much, so you talk about cuts, out-of-whack pensions and other areas where there might be waste in government.

You vow that you are going to eliminate those extra costs in the next budget cycle. You suggest that you understand the pain that the country is dealing with and the pressures that taxpayers are feeling as they try to navigate a shaky economy.

You say you are determined to get the job done.

And, if you are a Democratic leader of a state government or a senator or congressman serving in Washington, you say a bunch of stuff that makes it sound like you are ready to do the tough work necessary to balance the budget.

Then reality sets in and you realize -- some of the places where you are going to have to make some of your deepest cuts and where you are going to have to ruffle some feathers are connected to the people you will be depending on for votes in the next election cycle.

So you pause -- and water down cuts and get involved in areas where you shouldn't be and generally make decisions that are politically expedient rather than fiscally prudent -- mostly because you are afraid of what the consequences will be when the next election cycle rolls around.

And we are right back to where we were before.

The actions taken this week in Wisconsin are just another example of what happens when talk about cutting budgets meets the reality of really reducing the expenses of government.

People are fine with budget cuts -- as long as they do not affect them. Fear of the unknown makes people uneasy -- and cutting government means looking at new ways of growing this economy.

Talk is cheap when it comes to reducing spending. It is easy to say you want to reduce the budget, but not so easy when it comes time to find the spots to cut.

So the next couple of years -- and maybe more -- are not going to be easy. We will have to think out of the box and make changes to the way we look at government programs -- and decide what we want our tax dollars to pay for and what we would rather cut out of the bill pile.

We did not get here overnight, and the problem will not be solved overnight.

There is a lot of work ahead and even more debate in the near future.

But we are headed in the right direction -- if our leaders have the stomach to follow through.

Let's hope they do.

Published in Editorials on February 19, 2011 11:32 PM