The Christmas Eve news that the Bush administration is going to cut back on Pell grants for low-income students this year underscored just how out of kilter this country has become.
We're spending billions upon billions fighting a war that should never have been started and lavishing billions upon billions on giving the least needy people in America breaks on their income taxes.
As is almost always the case, the people who can afford it least wind up bearing the burden. How many times in our lives have we heard it? The rich get richer...
Americans are going to become brutally aware this year that their country cannot afford a costly war and massive tax cuts at the same time.
Although they maintain that the $7.5 trillion national debt is really not a problem, the Bush financial gurus are admitting that the annual budget deficit - now a record $435 billion - will have to be trimmed. The president himself has promised to cut it in half within the next few years.
We're already seeing how that's going to happen. Support to the states will be cut back in expensive programs like Medicaid, for example, thereby shifting part of the federal problem to the already cash-strapped states. And other domestic programs from environmental protection to education are going to get squeezed. In other words, we can't have both guns and butter - as most everyone has known for decades. Then throw in massive tax cuts and you've got the mess we're witnessing today.
The Pell cutbacks merely scratch the surface of what is yet to come.
Some 1.3 million college students - 2,000 of them right here on the UW's Madison campus - will have their education aid benefits cut by about 13 percent. Close to 90,000 others will lose them entirely.
This comes at a time when fewer and fewer children from low-income families are able to afford college as tuition costs skyrocket to make up for yet other cutbacks in education support from the state governments. For the kids of ordinary American working families, coming up with the money to earn a college degree is becoming a nightmare.
And let's put the blame where it lies - at the feet of this federal government that somehow managed to get another four years to continue down this disastrous path.
When the feds give trillions of dollars in tax breaks at the federal level, they're merely passing the burden to the states and local governments and to the people who can least afford to pay more taxes.
Some day, we've got to wake up.
Dave Zweifel has been editor of The Capital Times since 1983.
© 2005 Capital Times