But the problem with our Federal debt is that it will not disappear over time; in fact, it can only get worse.
The United States needs some Harry Truman-like plain speaking, instead of each administration putting off a national reckoning onto the next. Don't drill for oil and grow food — and the price for both goes up. Spend what you don't have, and later you will have to pay even more back. The generation that ran up the debt and was largely responsible for the Social Security crisis has a responsibility to make things right on its watch.
Such blunt talk is considered political suicide for candidates; in fact, anything less for the rest of us is national suicide.
The dilemma described above is an insoluble one for a politician whose only goal is re-election. Doing what's right in that case runs second to doing what's necessary to keep his job.
And the reality is that the public often wants to have its cake and eat it too--which is why polls are often so contradictory (and meaningless). With a rare amount of consistency, it seems that Americans really really want the debt to be decreased; but they also want taxes to be cut AND they refuse to part with their entitlements and pet projects.
Inconsistent? Certainly. But very human.
The question is why should they behave any differently? For decades, politicians of both parties have promised them the Moon, never telling them the potential cost in the long run. They have been led to believe that they can get "something for nothing" if only they elect candidate X. And, if they can't ignore reality and get something for nothing, it is because of the evil, money-grubbing capitalists whose only goal is to suck them dry.
Who hasn't heard a politician these days, especially from the Democratic Party, insist that the only real fiscal problem is that all those millionaires and billionaires and the rest of those "rich" people need to pay more to society?
The solution is always to "Tax the Rich!" and all will be well again.
But as Kevin Williamson argues, the only problem with that is there just aren't enough rich people to go around:
There are lots of liberal definitions of “rich.” When Pres. Barack Obama talks about the rich, he’s talking about people living in households with income of more than $250,000 or more, the rarefied caviar-shoveling stratum occupied by the likes of second-tier public-broadcasting executives, Boston cops, nurses, and the city manager of Lubbock, Texas (assuming somebody in her household earns the last $25,000 to carry her over the line). Club 250K isn’t all that exclusive, and most of its members aren’t the yachts-and-expensive-mistresses types.
Nonetheless, there aren’t that many of them. In fact, in 2006, the Census Bureau found only 2.2 million households earning more than $250,000. And most of those are closer to the Lubbock city manager than to Carlos Slim, income-wise. To jump from the 50th to the 51st percentile isn’t that tough; jumping from the 96th to the 97th takes a lot of schmundo. It’s lonely at the top.
But say we wanted to balance the budget by jacking up taxes on Club 250K. That’s a problem: The 2012 deficit is forecast to hit $1.1 trillion under Obama’s budget. (Thanks, Mr. President!) Spread that deficit over all the households in Club 250K and you have to jack up their taxes by an average of $500,000. Which you simply can’t do, since a lot of them don’t have $500,000 in income to seize: Most of them are making $250,000 to $450,000 and paying about half in taxes already. You can squeeze that goose all day, but that’s not going to make it push out a golden egg.
But it's the "golden egg" mentality that is driving the liberal mantra. Since liberals don't really understand where wealth comes from, you can watch them getting angrier and angrier when they are presented with facts like the one above. The only economic policy they know is to squeeze that goose. They have never considered that at some point the goose will be completely empty of eggs--and if you keep squeezing, it will certainly expire.
Margaret Thatcher, who was talking about the economic problems in her country in 1976and attributing it to the Labour Party policies, said:
I think they've made the biggest financial mess that any government's made in this country for a very long time, and Socialist governments do traditionally make a financial mess. They always run out of other people's money.
Thatcher understood, too, that when Labour/Democrats/Liberals/Progressives/Marxists finally do run out of other people's money, they always fall back on the tried and true rationalization that it is simply MORE government spending; MORE taxing the rich; MORE central planning, and MORE control of people's everyday lives that's needed.
They NEVER imagine that the goose will stop laying the golden eggs for them to spen;, nor do they ever imagine that they will ever have to stop living life as a fairy tale and face reality.
Their primary concern is to maintain their power and control over others; and to that end, the political left have discovered that by ramping up the traditional Marxist "class warfare" rhetoric, they can deflect anger that might otherwise be directed towards their profligacy onto the usual convenient scapegoats.
We see the effectiveness of this tactic by merely perusing the posters carried by the Wisconsin union protesters; and also by listening to their leaders blame those who dare to be supportive of fiscal responsibility. The distortion and denial are incredible.
But, as they force, step by excruciating step, their states and finally the country off that fiscal cliff, they won't fully appreciate the suicidal path they are on until that final moment when their fall is broken by hitting the hard, unyielding surface of reality.
Plain speaking may indeed be political suicide; it's much easier to promise everyone what they want instead of showing real leadership and going against the polls; against the protests; and doing what is consistent with reality.