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March 3, 2004, 8:50 P.M.

Credit Card Republicans: The ever-increasing national debt and current budget deficit mirror, on a grand scale, the out-of-control credit card debt plaguing an increasing number of American families and fueling the skyrocketing number of personal bankruptcies reported across the country. It used to be that when taxes were cut, spending was reduced accordingly. Not so with the Bush administration.

While some taxes have been cut, and other tax money refunded, the administration has been on a spending spree, spending money the government clearly canít afford. This is just like consumers using their credit cards to buy stuff they clearly canít pay for. The price of goods goes up because of the cost of borrowing, and the ability to save and plan for the future gets eaten up in interest and inflation. When consumers canít continue to pay, they file for bankruptcy and move on, leaving mountains of unpaid bills.

The federal government canít file for bankruptcy, so it is forced to cut services and to put off paying its debts, leaving the bill for future generations and administrations. Just as the credit card economy has long term ill effects for families, it also has long term implications for the future of our national economy. Couple this with the continuous loss of jobs in this country, which further reduces the governmentís income from taxes, and the future of the economy looks dim. By the way, can I pay my Visa with my MasterCard?

March 1, 2004, 8:30 P.M.

Outsourcing the Governor: According to several articles that appeared in local papers last week, New Hampshire is looking down the barrel of a $200 million deficit for fiscal year 2006-2007. This number is projected from a current deficit of approximately $50 million dollars and the loss of approximately $100 million in federal money counted in the current budget. This money goes away due to a deal between the Governor and the Feds to no longer request certain federal funds in the future. In this context, it is the Governor, and not prison services, who needs outsourcing.

$70 million in biennial revenue is lost due to the repeal of the inheritance tax and Governor Benson refuses to consider any new taxes to offset current budget shortfalls. All of this is occurring in the context of a budget that is running right at anticipated revenues. As a manager of the state budget, Benson is an abject failure.

Benson says the only way to fix the problem is to spend less. Departments and agencies of state government are at a point where less money means that they cannot continue to function. The net result, of course, is that government functions provided by certain agencies will no longer exist. To a certain degree, government will cease to exist.

It appears that this is Bensonís philosophy. His goal is to eliminate government, particularly state government, as a force in our lives. I think it would be best if he just came out and admitted that this is precisely what he is trying to accomplish. He should tell us exactly what governmental functions he sees as unnecessary, whether itís environmental protection, health and human services, DOT or the courts, he should just pick those services he sees as unnecessary and he should shut them down. Instead, he forces them to function on increasingly smaller budgets without defining what services he feels should be eliminated. This practice is wreaking havoc in state agencies, itís forcing less people to do more and it is affecting overall performance. Rather than rendering agencies unable to do a good job, he should eliminate them entirely. At least that would be honest.

The idea of outsourcing corrections services may just be the start of this practice. But why stop at outsourcing part of the services of the DOC. Why not just eliminate it? Send all of our prisoners out of state, or, in the true Benson model, leave it to the counties to handle the stateís prisoners, leaving aside the pesky details such as the stateís responsibility for feeding, housing, and clothing prisoners convicted of felony-level charges.

I do not criticize the concept of making government more efficient. In fact, I agree with that idea. We should ensure that our state agencies and departments are providing services as efficiently, effectively and economically as possible. This should be done by eliminating duplication of efforts, by creating efficiencies in management, administration and operation, and by eliminating waste within the system. The problem is that the Governor goes beyond these simple concepts and he undermines the ability of state agencies to function, then he criticizes them because they canít function.

Governor Benson is not a Republican, he is a Libertarian, and he should be honest and say so. He has demonstrated an ability to alienate even the most conservative members of the Republican party with his arrogance and his obvious disdain for government of any size. He wants government to go away and he should say so. His only approach to solving the stateís education crisis is to back a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to ignore education funding altogether, forcing local communities to pay for it entirely.

In the meantime, we should commission a study to see if the Governorís job could be done more efficiently by someone in, say, India.

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