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It's A Gray Area: Are we watching? Do we care?

April 23, 2011|By James P. Gray

In the April 18 edition of Newsweek, columnist Philip K. Howard published a "Dear Congress" letter setting forth several national policies that are broken, and demanding that they be addressed and fixed. This is similar to the open letter that was published in this space on April 3 that "gently but firmly" demanded strong leadership from Rep. John Campbell to address and resolve the problems with illegal immigration.

As a practical matter, with all of the political polarization and other problems facing our great country, mostly there is no one left but "We the People" to take action. Are we watching? Do we care? If so, we need to persuade our public leaders that getting and staying elected is not the same thing as governing.

In addition to illegal immigration, some of those areas that must be addressed are sunset provisions for all federal agencies, the reduction of the welfare system for both the poor and the wealthy, requiring new public employees to invest in 401(k) programs for their retirement, just like workers in the private sector, and the failed and hopeless policy of drug prohibition. All of these have an enormous negative impact upon our federal budget deficit, and there appears to be no good faith effort by Congress even to address, much less resolve them.

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Two additional areas that simply must be addressed are the entitlements of Social Security and Medicare. Painful as it could be, we must understand that if Congress had indexed the retirement age of 65 to increases of life expectancy when it implemented these programs in 1935, people would not be eligible today for these entitlements until they reached their middle 70s. So since the national government simply cannot remain solvent by paying entitlements at this rate, we simply must increase the ages of eligibility.

But when addressing our budget deficits, there remains a huge issue that is almost never even mentioned that will go a long way in helping us regain fiscal solvency, and that is the federal ownership of land. Most people do not realize this, but today the federal government owns about 650 million acres of land, almost 30% of our country! This property is held as national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, Indian reservations and military reservations, and for the good of the country's economic health, this landowning should be reassessed.

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