In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, "The Incumbent Party," (may require subscription) Democrat Congressman Jim Cooper points out the fundamental principles that guide the 'incumbent' party.
He lists 10 points that both parties adhere to when in the majority - and they are sobering points, indeed.
From "pretend to budget for the next five years while offering instead a one-year political fix," to "shamelessly exempt the federal government from normal Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), making it the only large entity in America - private or public - able to flout the rules," he points out the fallacies of our federal fiscal policies.
And he even touches on that 'third rail' by saying the Social Security and Medicare trust funds do not exist and that future benefits in these systems are not 'vested' but are, instead, 'scheduled' which means that they can be rescheduled or eliminated, at any time, by Congress. He adds, "Rescheduling is even easier to do when Congress refuses to record today's benefit levels on any federal balance sheet."
Unfortunately, these issues don't get anywhere near the media coverage as Anna Nicole Smith's baby or Don Imus' stupidity. And they are infinitely more important - especially when you consider that Cooper reports our true share of the national debt is $170,000 each, or $440,000 per household - and that's in addition to our current taxes.
Sadly, the reality of these fiscal problems don't make a difference when the majority of our Congressmen start loading up bills with pork. As Cooper says, "neither wing of the Incumbent Party offers any lasting solutions, only budgetary gimmicks."
I encourage you to read his column and remember these sobering facts when you file your income tax forms - and when you vote.
(The 2006 Financial Report of the U.S. Government, on which Cooper bases his comments, is available here.)