No objective is more important for the new Congress than putting America on course toward a balanced federal budget. We used to balance our budget regularly but, except for a short period during the late 1990’s, Congress has been unable to accomplish what should be a clear-cut mission. Americans understand that deficit spending may be unavoidable in wartime or in a Katrina-like emergency, but we also believe that in the absence of these events, there is no excuse for irresponsibly increasing our national debt.
Unfortunately, our national agenda no longer seems to include a balanced budget. President Obama established a national debt commission (whose report I will address in a future column), but that was only after cranking up federal expenditures and deficits to previously unseen levels.
We all know that the big enchiladas in the Federal budget are Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and national defense. That still leaves a lot of money to be saved elsewhere, yet even these opportunities are far too often belittled by elitists. For example, Jackie Calmes, a New York Times reporter, wrote that while there is general agreement on an earmark ban, “… [it] would hardly dent the projected annual deficits.” Paul Krugman, her colleague at the Times and the current economic guru of the left, routinely dismisses any savings at all, his most recent tantrum being Obama’s proposal for a two-year freeze on pay raises. He states “The actual savings, about $5 billion over two years, are chump change given the scale of the deficit.” These are two examples that occurred within days – and I could probably cite hundreds more, from both sides of the aisle.
The United States has a budget crisis that should be met by expenditure reductions, but our government has acted only with foolishness and cowardice. Let’s say your employer came to you and said “Look, the company is struggling, but I can keep you on if we reduce your annual salary from $80,000 to $70,000.” You would go home, sit down with your spouse, and figure out where you can start saving money. You could skip the Saturday night movies and join Netflix. You could learn to live without HBO. You could stop getting water delivered to the house. The bottom line is that you would adjust your expenditures because you have no choice; after all, you can’t print money or sell bonds to your neighbors. Not even to China.
What our government is doing has been going on for hundreds of years, ever since the Rothschilds made their fortune lending monies to the monarchies of Europe, and it has become an international problem of gargantuan proportions. Political leaders all over the world are making fiscal promises that they cannot keep, and this irresponsible practice has exploded in the past seventy-five years with the advent of left-wing, socialist governments. Overspending has become so pervasive that our society makes fun of it. In his recent HBO special, Dennis Miller spoke about not understanding the deficit. Miller said that he asked his son if he was upset that his generation would be saddled with the national debt. His son replied “Christ no Dad, I’m just going to saddle my kids with it.” It was good for a laugh – but Miller would never force his own kids to pay his credit card bills.
Virtually every parent I have ever met worries about what will be left for their children or grandchildren when they die. These people understand that it is immoral and sinful to leave their kids a pile of debt. Yet when it comes to the government – for which we are all responsible – people perceive it as some amorphous entity that can merrily spend more each year than it takes in without any consequences. They believe government, apparently, can pay for everything.
And unfortunately we do. Prodded by spineless and corrupt politicians who consider power far more important than responsibility, government has become the fixer of all our problems. People can live in a flood plain without insurance and then get paid by the government to rebuild in that same flood plain only to be wiped out again in the next flood. Every challenge that we have in this country is being discussed by a commission that lasts forever without ever solving the problem. Responsible Americans put their hand out when they hear of a government program because they rationalize they want their share, and if they don’t get it now someone else will. The sense of communal cost has disappeared.
The numbers are staggering. If the U.S. government had to employ the same accounting standards used by major corporations, it would report an annual deficit between $4 and $5 trillion. 41% of our current federal expenditures are paid for by borrowing money, and by 2015, America will be about $20 trillion in debt.
Our elected officials must face these facts, along with the immoral and pathetic aspects of their reckless behavior. Polls that say that taxpayers demand certain things need to be disregarded, and responsible leaders with some backbone must instead broadcast the simple truth: The jig is up and we need to reverse course. You cannot have everything you want. You can have Social Security, but you should expect less and start saving for yourself more. Medicare will help with your retirement healthcare, but you should have something saved for that as well. If you have a catastrophe, you’d better have an insurance policy because we cannot guarantee every one of your risks. And if your parents get ill in their old age, you’d better be prepared to take care of them just as they took care of you.
Saddling our kids with more and more debt is just plain wrong. The debt is bad enough now and we need to stop it from getting worse. The time is now and this Congress was elected to do just that thing.
In Honor of His 103rd Birthday, Here Are The 20 Best Quotes From The Late, Great Milton Friedman | John Hawkins