July 3 2012

Book Review, The Debt Bomb: A Bold Plan to Stop Washington from Bankrupting America by US Senator Tom A. Coburn, M.D.

Donna Wiesner Keene

When the US political conservative movement was meeting in Bill Buckley’s living room or a telephone booth in the 1960s, these brave few predicted America’s current fiscal crises. 

The phone booth has added members as the problem has become more obvious, so today many books talk about our fiscal situation; very few offer even one workable option. US Senator Tom Coburn MD has written a book to meet today’s challenges head on, so it was destined to be totally missed by the Sunday news shows. The Debt Bomb: A Bold Plan to Stop Washington from Bankrupting America offers a peek into how Washington works then some actual solutions. 

The Senator’s call to simply review a bill to see if it is duplicative, for example, makes too much sense for the Senate to pass it. The best of the book is restated in much more depth in “Back in Black”, his extensive research on duplication and ways America’s bloated government can be cut today without reductions in services. Should Romney lead a Transition, the blueprint for initial cuts it made cogently at http://www.coburn.senate.gov/public/?p=deficit-reduction.

But Coburn is dead wrong in his belief that accepting tax increases in exchange for spending cuts won’t hurt us in the long run.  Time after time, the Republicans have agreed to the taxes hooked to spending cuts, then gotten the tax increases but never the spending cuts.  The worst of Coburn’s book is the  diatribe against Grover Norquist – I showed Grover the book on a flight to Las Vegas, but suffice it to say any explanations would be inside-the-ball-game politics.  It simply weakens the book.  

A few years ago I asked a conservative friend to attend a Republican fund raiser and she replied, “I am a conservative, not a Republican”.  Some don’t see the difference, but look at defense. Recently a tax cut coalition who began to discuss how to avoid the defense sequester – to blow the only compromise that came out of the Congressional arguments on raising the debt ceiling. To raise taxes to maintain the waste at DoD is ludicrous – and here Coburn makes his bravest and most helpful arguments. Under “How Defense Waste Threatens Our National Security,” he writes “The military industrial complex tends to waste money in two primary ways—through bad contracting practices and old-fashioned parochialism.” 

The Senator proves his points – do we need $1.2 billion in defense grocery stores? More DoD health research than NIH? A duplicative and poorly run health care system and school system? Even asking the questions in conservative circles brings gasps, but America understands that when Congressional demands certain weapons built over DoD objections, something is amiss.  For the solutions to our debt crisis, the book and its companion web site are worth the read.

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