Washington's New Year's Resolution? Go on a Diet

We can all breathe a sigh of relief. Our representatives in Washington are home for the holidays until late January, giving Americans a brief respite from the comedy of horrors perpetuated by the government’s incessant tinkering and spending.

Fortunately or unfortunately, they’ll be back in town. The question is, what should they do when they get back?

I can hear you screaming through your screen: “NOTHING.” And I agree. With Democrats in the Senate and the White House, “doing” usually means “spending,” and even then, all that money rarely does much lasting good for the economy.

Nevertheless, the people do demand action. A new Rasmussen poll reveals that 50 percent of Americans worry that the government will not do enough to fix the nation’s economic problems. The sentiment is quite different than the one felt by Americans immediately following the housing crisis and subsequent financial meltdown. As Rasmussen analyzes:

“At that time, 63 percent of voters worried more that the government would do too much. In recent months, a plurality has expressed a fear that the government will do too little in response to the economic troubles gripping the nation. Earlier this month, for the first time ever, the number worried that the government would do too little reached 50 percent.”

Big government liberals everywhere are cheering the news. Finally, they say, the public is catching on to the fact that we need more government spending.

Not so fast. Let’s take a deeper look into just what sorts of actions voters want the government to take. As it turns out, the fears that Washington won’t do enough, have nothing to do with spending and everything to do with cutting.

Rasmussen finds that 77 percent want the government to cut deficits, 71 percent think the government should cut spending, and 59 percent want the government to cut taxes. The idea that the government should reduce rather than increase spending is one that stretches across almost every demographic. Even a significant plurality of Democrats (47/33) agree!

When it comes to cutting there is no shortage of work.

In the latest testament to a government gone out of control, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a press release stating their inability to issue a financial report on the U.S. government. In their words:

“The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) cannot render an opinion on the 2011 consolidated financial statements of the federal government, because of widespread material internal control weaknesses, significant uncertainties, and other limitations.

As was the case in 2010, the main obstacles to a GAO opinion on the accrual- based consolidated financial statements were: (1) serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense (DOD) that made its financial statements unauditable, (2) the federal government’s inability to adequately account for and reconcile intragovernmental activity and balances between federal agencies, and (3) the federal government’s ineffective process for preparing the consolidated financial statements.”

You know things have gotten bad when the agency responsible for keeping the government accountable just throws up its hands and says “forget it.” The government’s books are such a mess that they don’t even know where to start.

The inevitable creep towards insolvency poses troubling questions. For too long Washington has been able to promise more benefits without any concordant increases in taxes. Now the dynamic has shifted, likely permanently, forcing Congress to cut spending or raise taxes. Fortunately, the latest Rasmussen poll reveals the people’s presence. Will Washington listen when they get back to town?