“Out of Control” Spending As Metaphor

One reason the GOPer Congress and Wisconsin Governor Walker have given for their political maneuverings is that “out of control” spending calls for severe measures, such as dissolving a union–a union which (as I know you know) had already conceded on budgetary issues.

For a moment, we’ll neglect history, which suggests that the primary reasons for the economy’s collapse and thus the drying up of revenue (yes, revenue, that other side of the ledger) was the following: mis-deeds and recklessness by Wall Street; mis-deeds and recklessness by banks; and the relative absence of federal oversight.

We shall also overlook the fact that, if over-spending is a problem, it is a problem for which both Parties are responsible, including the GOPers under Bush, whose right-hand thug was Rove, who is getting involved in Wisconsin, not because of “out of control” spending (of course) but because Rove wants to help defeat Obama and because he is the de facto designer of GOPer political strategy.

Instead we’ll focus on a metaphor that isn’t: “out of control” spending. Technically, it’s not a metaphor because it’s literal not figurative. That is, the language points to spenders who have lost control.

However, in the present context, the language may be figurative. Consider: What elements of the U.S. or state budgets are “out of control”? As noted above, the chief problem is revenue, not spending, especially with regard to states, and as noted, Rove is as interested in spending as vegans are in beef. Let’s focus on the federal: the largest pieces of the federal budgetary pie are military spending, social programs, and social security. The rest is more or less chicken feed (alas, Eric Blair, I am mixing hackneyed metaphors)–that is, cut it or not, the rest of the budget just doesn’t matter that much. You could, for example, cut the budgets of the entire cabinet departments (excluding Defense) and make as much impact as a feather falling on a boulder.

Is social security spending out of control? No, but it faces a demographic problem. But to back up even further, let us remember that people pay into social security; it’s not as if the federal government is handing out free money. Thus the term “entitlement programs” annoys me. Anyone who pays into social security is “entitled” to take money out in the sense that I’m entitled to a shirt I pay for at a clothing store. Next: Medicare. Yes, a large program. But out of control? No. Again, there is a demographic problem. Everybody knows that some cuts are coming in order to solve the demographic problem.

The military? This may be one place where spending is “out of control,” but only insofar as the Pentagon more or less tells Congress and the Defense Department what to spend, through a variety of clever tactics and the symbiotic relationship among the military, the weapons industry, lobbying, and serving in Congress. Nonetheless. American citizen are seemingly content with a military budget that (as I know you have heard) is more than the military budgets of all nations besides the U.S.

The point is that spending is under control--and has been–by both Parties. A revenue-catastrophe resulted from Wall Street and banking misdeeds. Now “players” like the public-employees’ union in Wisconsin must face the consequences because American politics dictates that some of those least responsible for the economic crisis must pay, while Goldman Sachs and all the Congresspersons (from both Parities) who did not insist upon oversight go about their merry way. –As does Rove, whose worldview depends upon cruel ironies (Kerry served in Viet Nam, Rove and Bushie did not), so that because of an economic crisis to which GOPers, as much as anyone, contributed has created an “opening” through which Rove and his billionaires may pass so as to make . . . public-employee unions (oh my, how powerful they are!) and President Obama the culprits, the ones who are “out of control.”

Even when politicians and the media seem to be communicating in a straightforward, literal way, they may be lying.


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