Other nations are not waiting on the world’s lone economic superpower. Greece, Germany, Ireland, France, Great Britain, each of these nations is facing the reality of austerity in their own unique approaches. Some are working better than others. All have riotous villagers storming the castles. But austerity has come, and it’s here to stay.
For the first time in generations, our children and grandchildren will know firsthand what it means when government can no longer meet its obligations. Until now, such talk was the subject of government bean counters and doomsday economists.
We can no longer convince ourselves that such calamity is only “on paper.” No, this threat is real, and it will rock the very foundation of our country more powerfully than any terrorist or enemy of the state could ever hope or imagine.
This reality of austerity will impact each of us individually, and we must prepare for it and recognize it is for the greater good of our nation.
No more can we hope for a 1936 New Deal or a 1964 Great Society renaissance. No, this must be fixed from the top down, and the bottom up. We will all share in its pain.
We have spent more money in the first decade of the 21st Century than during all of the decades since this nation’s founding combined. And what do we have to show for it?
One in six Americans still faces hunger each day. One in eight lives in poverty, while the number of Americans living in extreme poverty (those with incomes below half the poverty line) is over 17 million – the highest level on record since data first became available in 1975.
Despite these dire numbers, every year, Congress adds more programs in the War on Poverty. Are we any better? The numbers prove otherwise.
My point here is no government program alone can ever hope to solve what ails us as a people. And until we stop putting our faith, and our dollars, into those hands, we will continue in this whirlpool of debt.
The nation’s governors will lead the way to austerity. Already, state CEO’s such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) are squaring up against state bureaucrats and worker unions, worried their perennial salaries and bloated size are only exacerbating attempts to trim budgets. There’s even talk from state Democrats of doing the same. Just look at New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), who is staring at the reality of unsustainable deficits and recognizing he, too, must trim the Empire State’s public workforce.
Party labels don’t hold the same sway at the state level as they do in Washington, because at the end of the day, these office holders must clear their ledger books of the red ink. They can’t simply print more money, or move items “off-budget” and pledge to deal with them at a later date.
At the same time, governors are increasingly wary of heading to Washington with their hats in hand and asking for federal bailouts. They recognize additional “stimulus” funds such as enhanced Medicaid dollars and other federal infusions only tie the states to more mandates. Further, the federal dollars cloud the true fiscal health of each state, elevating baselines of budgets in one year and raising expectations from the state electorate those same dollars will be there again in subsequent years.
Simply put, we are entering a new reality- the Reality of Austerity. Our government MUST heed the call of the electorate from this past November and force itself to lay off the pork, decrease the bloat, stopping making promises it has no way to fund, get it’s checkbook balanced, and save for when the economy isn’t booming.
If we learned anything in the first decade of the new millennium, it’s that we truly can’t have our cake and eat it too- we cannot spend as if tomorrow will be as fruitful as today. Instead of “whatever the cost” and “whatever it takes”, we must start planning and implementing long-term budgets and solutions and stick to them rather than falsely believing short-term growth is here to stay in perpetuity. This second decade will be rougher than the first, much less the 80’s and 90’s, but if we can adhere to this rediscovered fiscal discipline, we will come out better and stronger than ever.