Europe has arrived at where we are headed. In the south of the old continent -- Spain, Italy and Greece -- the new austerity has begun to imperil the social order. In the north, the disposition to be taxed to pay for other nations' social safety nets is disappearing.
With government in the U.S. at all levels consuming 40 percent of gross domestic product, and taxes 30 percent, taxes will have to rise and government spending be controlled or cut. The alternative is to destroy the debt by depreciating the dollars in which it is denominated -- i.e., by Fed-induced inflation.
But you can only rob your creditors once. After that, they never trust you again.
There is another social development rarely discussed.
The workers who are replacing retiring baby boomers in the labor force are increasingly minorities.
Black folks and Hispanics alone account now for 30 percent of the population -- and rising rapidly.
Yet these two minorities have high school dropout rates of up to 50 percent in many cities, and many who do graduate have math, reading and science scores at seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade levels.
Can their contributions to an advanced economy be as great as were those of baby boomers of the '60s and '70s, whose SAT scores were among the highest we ever recorded? U.S. scores in global competition have been plummeting toward Third World levels.
Everyone talks about how we are going to raise test scores. But, despite record and rising investments in education per student, no one in decades has found a way to do this consistently.
Moreover, while boomers were almost all born into families where mother and father were married and living together, Hispanics have a 53 percent illegitimacy rate, African-Americans a 73 percent rate.
Among the white poor and working class, the illegitimacy rate is now 40 percent -- almost twice as high as it was in black America when Pat Moynihan wrote his 1965 report on the crisis of the black family.
And between the illegitimacy rate and the drug-use rate, dropout rate, crime rate and incarceration rate, the correlation is absolute.
Some of us are often accused of always "crying wolf."
But it is worth noting that one day the wolf came.