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Zirpoli: Politicians remain pennywise and poundfoolish

Its election season and, as expected, some candidates are promising more tax cuts — again. And while some Americans are pleased to have more money in their pockets in the short-term, all of us will end up paying more in the long-term.

These same politicians keep complaining about government deficits, but their tax cuts grow the budget deficits and our national debt. Their strategy seems to be to cut taxes so they then can say that we don't have money to spend on education, health care, infrastructure, early childhood services and so on. This strategy has worked well over the last couple of decades and the results are apparent.

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Our roads and bridges are failing apart. Americans spend hours each week sitting in traffic because many of our nation's roads are outdated and congested. An estimated 60,000 bridges in America "are in desperate need of repair" according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, and need an estimated $76 billion in repairs. But instead of fixing roads and bridges, we'll get to spend our tax cuts on the fuel we'll burn while sitting in traffic.

Our drinking water system is in serious danger and I don't mean just in Flint, Michigan. A recent one month study of water issues by Huffington Post found 142 incidents in 27 states where residents were advised not to drink their water. Most of these were in states where taxes are low and they don't have the funds to replace old water pipes. In America, children are poisoned every day because we don't have the money to replace old pipes.

Our nation's schools need billions of dollars more in funding to provide adequate education to our nation's children. The tax cuts that should have been invested in the education of our children will, instead, equate to significantly more spending for jails, drug rehabilitation and other ills associated with poor schools. We are foolishly saving a little money now only to pay a lot more down the road.

Americans going on vacation this summer will have longer security lines at airports because Congress cut the number of TSA staff by over 4,000 workers. Interestingly, Congress held hearings recently to figure out why there are long lines at our nation's airports this summer. Instead of blaming their own mismanagement, Congress placed all the blame on TSA's management.

Our veterans still have to wait too long for medical care because Congress refuses to invest the money and resources necessary to care for the additional tens of thousands of injured soldiers from our multiple wars. Congress is happy to invest in the weapons of war, but they don't seem to want to deal with the consequences of war.

The Centers for Disease Control recently requested $1.6 billion in emergency funds to respond to the Zika virus spreading across the south. Democrats support the spending request. Senate Republicans, however have offered only $1.1 billion, and House Republicans told the CDC to transfer $600 billion from other health programs, such as the Ebola prevention program. Talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul.

The Zika virus has already infected 544 Americans (17 of them in Maryland) and 157 of these cases are pregnant women who are now at high risk of having a baby born with severe disabilities. And the summer mosquitoes are just starting to bite.

As stated by Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, a state at high risk for the Zika virus, "There have already been 1 million cases in the Caribbean and Central America and South America, over 500 cases in the United States of America, and it's going to grow. This is a lot of money, but it is only a pittance compared to what it would cost if the epidemic got out of control and we didn't stop it and we didn't defeat it."

CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden added, "This is no way to fight an epidemic."

Some politicians don't seem to understand the concept of investing now to save money later, except when it comes to the Pentagon. Then they understand that if you want something to be done well, you need to spend money. But "it" could also refer to our children's education, their health care, our nation's infrastructure, or protecting the American people from a dangerous virus.

Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. He is the Laurence J. Adams distinguished chair in special education and coordinates the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.

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