The confluence of head-exploding statements and news keeps coming, with the worst being the recent unconscionable announcements out of the mouths of the President and some of his political adversaries that “there is no debt crisis.”
This is exactly like the old joke about the man falling from a 40 story window, being asked by someone on the tenth floor, shouting through a window as he passes, “How are you doing?” “So far, so good!” he answers. Yet these ridiculous, idiotic or intentionally dishonest statements by President Obama, Speaker Boehner, and others are being cited by the news media as reassuring! No, there’s no debt crisis, if you regard that falling optimist as not being in a smashing-to-pulp-on-the-sidewalk-crisis. The debt increased by a trillion dollars last year, and looks as if it will increase by close to a trillion more by October, 2013. The government has no leadership on the issue, and the various sides appear incapable of forging a solution, with the current Administration actually going out of its way to try to make less than 2% in budget cuts under the absurd sequester hurt as much as possible, to convince a math-deficient public that cutting the size of government is not only impossible but undesirable. This scenario doesn’t demonstrate that there’s a debt crisis?
Apparently, in the minds of our irresponsible and dishonest national leaders, a debt crisis only exists is when the country is in the depths of desperation of, say, Cyprus. That small European nation is bankrupt, and demanding a $20 billion bailout from the European Union to prevent its banks from failing. But when the E.U., as a condition of advancing such a loan to a belly-up economy that generates no more than that amount in a year, required that private bank accounts be charged a hefty fee to contribute to the sum, the Cypriot Parliament rejected the deal unanimously. I listened to an NPR report yesterday in which angry Cypriots talked of the proposed deal as “blackmail” and praised their legislators for rejecting this “insult” to Cyprus’s “dignity” and “pride.” Are they in Oz? Bizarro World? It is Cyprus that is extorting the rest of its European partners, demanding cash to forestall a collapse—caused by Cyprus’s own mismanagement—that could cause a devastating chain reaction. Pride? Dignity? What pride? Cyprus is the equivalent of a homeless junkie begging on the international streets. It can’t pay its bills—what does it have to be proud of?
Of course, it was only last year that Cyprus had no debt crisis either.
Not sensing the irony, or perhaps not caring, NPR also went to extra lengths to bolster its Federal funders’ irresponsible logic, all the better to make sure that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting remains one of those essential deficit expenditures that it was worth releasing dangerous illegal aliens to pay for. Quoting in succession three Republicans making the rather obvious point that “every American family knows that it has to live within its means and balance its budget,” smug NPR reporters informed us that “it ain’t necessarily so!” We were then treated to a series of interviews and statistics showing that most American families don’t balance their budgets, and that the little family units that make up our nation are also in the red, though not to the extent that the government is. What was the point of this story? That the government being disgracefully profligate is acceptable because “everybody does it”? That nobody should criticize the government’s lack of a responsible budget process because most citizens don’t stick to their budgets either? That the Republican officials were lying? The tone of the piece was mind-boggling, either intentionally or negligently crafted to leave the impression that spending more money than you have is no big deal.
After all, there’s no debt crisis.
In today’s headlines, the civil engineers released an assessment of the nation’s infrastructure, and graded it D+. Just yesterday, a huge water main burst along a central D.C. area thoroughfare, causing massive disruptions for most of a day, but that wasn’t a national infrastructure crisis, understand. We have no such crisis. That crisis will only arrive when sewers back up, causing disease and epidemics, and ancient water mains are breaking daily in East Coast cities, when bridges start collapsing and when the economic effects of dilapidated highways that should have been repaired decades ago become obvious.
“The report grades infrastructure in sixteen sectors and prescribes a funding level necessary to bring each up to a B grade. That will require spending $454 billion annually over the next eight years, according to the group’s figures. However, the society estimates only $253 billion annually is currently earmarked for infrastructure repair and improvements, leaving a yearly funding gap of $200 billion.”
The report estimates that 3.6 trillion dollars of spending will be needed to prevent wholesale infrastructure rot by 2020. Where is that supposed to come from? Columnist Robert Samuelson, by far the most scholarly and economically literate of the pundits, explained the basic budget math—again—in one of his depressing columns this week:
“Choices are being made by default. Almost everything is being subordinated to protect retirees. Solicitude for government’s largest constituency undermines the rest of government. This is an immensely important story almost totally ignored by the media. One reason is that it’s happening spontaneously and invisibly: Growing numbers of elderly are simply collecting existing benefits. The media do not excel at covering inertia.
“Liberals drive this process by treating Social Security and Medicare as sacrosanct. Do not touch a penny of benefits; these programs are by definition progressive; all recipients are deserving and needy. Only a few brave liberals complain that this dogma threatens programs for the non-aged poor. “None of us wants to impose new burdens on vulnerable seniors,” write economists Harry J. Holzer of Georgetown University and Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution in The Post. But “for how long will we continue to sacrifice investments in our nation’s children and youth … to spend more and more on the aged?”
“Hypocritical conservatives are liberals’ unspoken allies. Despite constant grumbling about entitlements, they lack the courage of their convictions. Consider House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s latest budget plan. From 2014 to 2023, he proposes cutting federal spending by $4.6 trillion. Not a cent comes from Social Security, while Medicare cuts are tiny, about 2 percent. His major Medicare proposal (in effect, a voucher) wouldn’t start until 2024. Most baby boomers escape meaningful benefit cuts. As Holzer and Sawhill fear, most of Ryan’s cuts affect programs for the poor.”
No, this isn’t a debt crisis. It’s a responsibility crisis, an honesty crisis, a planning crisis, an integrity crisis, a courage crisis, a priorities crisis, a delusion crisis, an apathy crisis, a stupidity crisis, and most of all, a bi-partisan leadership and ethics crisis. But it’s not a debt crisis.
We have no debt crisis.
Graphic: My Remote Radio