Let me tell you a quick story about one of the most marvelous and intriguing beasts in the animal kingdom. The African impala is a graceful animal, full of raw force and power. It possesses the ability to jump 13 feet high from a standing position and as much as 30 feet out, with little more than a few gallops.
Yet if you visit any zoo today, you can view the impala protected only by a three-foot wall. When the impalas are young, they are taught that they cannot jump over that tiny wall, despite their great, instinctual abilities. The reason? Zookeepers manipulate a weakness in the adults to limit their full potential. A full-grown impala will hesitate and ultimately not leap over an object unless it can see where it’s going to land. So long as zoo personnel keep the other side out of view, it hinders the impala from something it is fully capable of doing.
We have a similar inability in Washington today. Congressional leaders are paralyzed by their lack of faith to see this country through to the other side of prosperity and greater economic freedom we have not known in over a generation.
The ensuing debate over spending, debt ceilings, and entitlement reforms holds far more than the process hostage. Our entire system of government hangs in a delicate balance.
Government does not create anything. It does not manufacture a good, or yield a product that’s traded on the open market. Instead, it confiscates our individual monies and redistributes those funds in a manner it deems best. In that regard, money is the lifeblood of government; without which it essentially ceases to exist.
Hence the reason that this time, this current debate over repairing and repaying our national debt is so critical. For if our government falls, the institutions that have come to rely on that “full faith and credit” guarantee are in turn, capable of collapsing as well.
The evidence for reform is overwhelming. Just 50 years ago, discretionary spending in the federal budget was two-thirds of all federal outlays – an enormous amount of money spent for roads, bridges, infrastructure, education and defense. In the 60s, we put a man on the moon. Today, because of entitlement spending that’s mandatory, that ratio has flipped. Entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid now represent over two-thirds of all federal spending, and discretionary spending is shrinking. Payments on the debt alone are in the teens.
This time last month, non-partisan experts and actuaries – fiscal scientists – predicted that Medicare will run out of money five years earlier than expected in 2024. Social Security will collapse under its own weight in 2036.
Yet instead of seeing these dates as a wake-up call to set aside partisan selfishness, the political parties wag fingers of blame at the other.
It’s apparent that neither side is serious about controlling spending. I don’t make that statement lightly. Evidence for the Democrats: They want to increase the debt limit by $2 trillion. Why that specific amount? Because it keeps the federal government functioning and solvent through the 2012 presidential elections. How convenient.
Evidence the Republicans aren’t serious: As the Federal Treasury burns, the House Armed Services and Appropriations Committees are earmarking tax dollars for programs, planes and weapons systems the Pentagon either didn’t ask for or doesn’t need. As large as the Defense Department’s budget is, Republicans still won’t sacrifice even a portion of that sacred cow.
Democrats and Republicans alike seem more concerned with notching meaningless victories in the three-foot walls that fence them in than reaching their true potential – the ability to set this country on a course out of economic bondage.
Our national debt has become our slave master. It controls the values of the homes we buy, the purchasing power of our currency, even our international diplomacy. If you don’t believe me, then why do we let a known murderer and tyrant in North Korea mock his neighbors and the world with his puerile behavior? Because China says so.
Things don’t look good these days for the forces of fiscal restraint over the forces of entitlement spending. Just last week, a special election in New York rocked the establishment, as the long-shot Democrat defeated her opponent in a safely Republican district. The reason given was that voters don’t want Medicare cut.
Now the knives are sharpened. Democratic campaigns are rejuvenated, emboldened they have discovered a new cudgel with which to lacerate Republicans.
It is these times that call for courageous leaps into a new realm of prosperity, and yet the political impalas look guilelessly at that three-foot wall in front of them.
If Republicans revert to their usual propensities to bunker in and endure the political firestorm, Barack Obama will remain in the White House, the Senate will stay in Democratic control, and all momentum will be lost. Paul Ryan will be a pariah; a John the Baptist who came into his own country to preach the gospel of austerity, and his own country received him not.
This is no time for timidity. The wall that stands in our way is 30 feet high. What will Republicans do in these coming weeks? There will be political losses for the actions and votes they take, of that I am certain. But the other side of that wall is teeming with promise. The GOP knows that. So do Democrats. Both parties possess the ability to leap to the other side. Only one is brave enough to do it.