The Problem of Pain

Barney Brenner
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Posted: Oct 21, 2014 12:01 AM
The Problem of Pain

The problem of pain, to borrow a title from C.S. Lewis, is that with regard to our enormous national debt, there is none.

As great an impending disaster as it’s alleged to be, you’d think there’d be signs of suffering.

No less a luminary than Rush Limbaugh speaks of his Dad’s warning when Rush was a kid that this immense obligation, only $1 trillion at the time, would be our undoing. Yet now at 17 times that size, it appears just a calamity without a consequence.

But the reason for this is simple: we’re engaged in the biggest can-kicking endeavor in human history.

Our federal government’s ability to borrow, print and appropriate money has allowed us to remain fat, dumb and happy despite confiscating the prosperity of our grandkids and beyond. It’s been called generational theft and we seem oblivious to the dangers accruing to them – and to us.

To better understand the issue, the Feds can be likened to a high-income family which every month spends every nickel it gets – then puts 40 percent more on a credit card.

But this is a charmed family which never suffers from its overspending. When the bill arrives, they ignore every penny of principal. They’ve already maneuvered their interest rate closer to zero than reality should permit. With no requirement to reduce their debt, they pay only the interest, they do it with money that they print themselves – and then they raise their own credit limit for next month!

Is that a great deal or what?

Meanwhile, as their citizen cosigners diminish in number, the share of debt for each private sector worker has reached around $200,000 – with no end in sight.

To make the millstone on struggling wage earners even heavier, some cities, counties and states have also joined the debt debacle and use additional mechanisms to encumber the future.

Despite being required to balance their budgets, elected officials overuse not only debt from bonding, but they collude with public-sector unions in a diabolical deal: keep getting us reelected and we’ll keep giving you myriad benefits and extravagant pensions.

So as they both milk the taxpayer, even after retirement, the American working stiff still signs their paychecks but gets barred from the bargaining table.

Cloward and Piven have had their society-crashing strategy not only implemented, but augmented.

But even those two utopians claimed a concern for the welfare of others. Our current crop of kleptocrats are operating at the expense of all others.

Can we stop the federal spending spree and reverse our looming decline? Sure. Not overnight, but three hundred determined souls in Congress could make it happen. Even John Maynard Keynes recognized limitations to his eponymous policy. Much of our current Congress cannot. The fear in DC seems to be that the easing of “quantitative easing” would send shock waves through the economy.

So the kicking continues.

Thirty-eight States could also turn things around. An Amendment requiring the Feds to balance their budget, just as businesses, families and States have to, would be a giant step in the right direction.

The public pension scam is equally addressable. It likely would entail some governmental bankruptcy, but precedent exists for that. Most of the nation is tightening its belt. There’s no good reason that government retirees should be the exception. The tough love explanation is that they were promised something that politicians not only didn’t have, but wasn’t even theirs to give.

Except perhaps in wartime, a pay-as-we-go approach is more appropriate. Pay-as-we-hope-we’ll-have is not working out very well.

And what would we do about the debt? If spending were ever in line, there’s a simple solution.

With estimates of untapped US energy reserves in the hundreds of trillions, a concerted effort to drill and a proper earmarking of energy taxes could not only retire the debt, but would cut unemployment, revitalize the economy, slash our energy costs and defund our enemies.

Not easy but simple. It’s an issue of leadership.

Will November afford us a better course? We’ll soon find out. Although Ronald Reagan famously said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government IS the problem.”

But if we ever needed hope and change …