If you've ever wondered why we're broke at every level of government, you only need visit two earlier posts today at Hit & Run.

This one shows that despite all the bitching and moaning about supposed austerity measures, state and federal spending has gone on a-growing like an overfed baby.

And this one lays out a plan to trim spending all the way back to 2006 levels, when seven out of eight Americans were starving to death.

Sadly, the plan has no chance of being adopted because it actually suggests, you know, cutting spending. So it won't go anywhere even as Congress must find a paltry $1.2 trillion in net spending cuts over the next 10 years' worth of spending or else face...something. 

Just how puny is $1.2 trillion in cuts? For a laugh, let's assume that the feds spend just $3.6 trillion in each of the next 10 years (to get the joke, consider that federal spending between 2000 and 2010 basically doubled in nominal dollars). That would come to a total of $36 trillion in spending. Slicing $1.2 trillion from that total would cut a whopping 0.03 percent 3.33 percent from future spending. [Author note: Duh on my part, and I cannot plead having gone to James Buchanan High in my defense.]

To get a better sense of just how confused Americans are, consider Cincinnati-area residents, who are being pushed to build a completely idiotic streetcar as a means of urban development. Go here for reasons why the project is beyond stupid. There's an initiative on the November 8 ballot that would ban even thinking about a streetcar for the next nine years. 

The hometown paper, The Enquirer explains:

Most Cincinnatians believe a proposed streetcar would be a waste of taxpayer money, but say they oppose a ballot measure that would prevent the system from being built, a new Enquirer poll shows.

Fifty-three percent of city of Cincinnati respondents said they intend to vote on Nov. 8 against Issue 48, a proposed amendment to the city's charter that would prohibit City Hall from building the streetcar and perhaps other passenger rail plans through 2020, the poll found. Thirty-seven percent said they support the measure.

You got that? A no vote on Issue 48 means that you don't want to make it illegal for City Hall to build the streetcar anytime before 2021. A yes vote means you are saying the city shouldn't even think about it.

That's a bit confusing, for sure. Here is something that isn't: An Enquirer poll that finds 62 percent of Cincinnati residents think it's a stupid idea and 66 percent of Hamilton County residents (in which Cincy is located) think it's stupid. Both sets of residents include 17 percent who call the streetcar a "risky project," which should probably be added to the "Waste of taxpayer money" totals to boot.

Yet, in an article titled "Streetcar Poll Buoys Both Sides," the Enquirer quotes these two elected officials in favor of building a $95 billion million streetcar for a city that has not been able to fund its public sector pensions and is looking at a 2012 budget shortfall in the $60 million range:

But Councilman Wendell Young, who backs the streetcar, said he hopes the Nov. 8 vote ends the debate.

“The problem with revisiting the issue is that, even if we were to decide not to build the streetcar now, at some point we’re going to want one as part of our transportation system,” Young said. 

“And it will never be cheaper to build than right now.”

Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, another streetcar advocate who called the poll results “all good,” added that despite the survey showing that Cincinnatians are decidedly cool toward the streetcar, she would not hesitate to move forward.

“It’s incredible to me that we’re still having to fight to make progress,” she said. 
“I hope we break ground Jan. 1.”

Enquirer article here.

It is precisely the mentality quoted above that explains why we're broke: People who are in a position to know better but who dogmatically insist that the answer to every budget problem and every deficit situation is to keep spending, irrespective of available funds and possible payoffs to "public investment." It'll never be cheaper to build! It represents progress! Here's a better plan to help Cincinnati and all the other broke cities and states and federal governments: Lobby the Game Show Network to bring back Make Me Laugh and then put these clowns on it. Because if they can keep a straight face while saying things like they said to the press, they could keep a straight face if they were being tickled to death by the Marx Brothers.

But it's not just foolish pols and civic leaders who are to blame. It's also the voters who return such people to power rather than sending them packing. In the end, that's why we're broke: We keep electing people - and then re-electing them - who refuse to restrain spending.