FAGIN: A plan for finally resolving our long-term debt crisis

By: BARRY FAGIN
August 4, 2011
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Far from being a “historic” compromise, the debt-ceiling deal is politics as usual. Federal spending increases every year, entitlements are untouched, no agencies or subsidies are targeted for elimination. As I predicted in my last column, spending “cuts” are only in relation to a baseline of increases set by the Congressional Budget Office, which means federal spending will keep on growing. Shame on newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times for buying in to Washington’s newspeak definition of “cut.” George Orwell was right, just three decades too early.

This concluding act is being sold as drama, but it’s really a farce. Act I: Reasonable Democrats agreed to unprecedented “cuts.” Act II: Republicans, driven to extremism by crazy tea partiers, demanded draconian cuts in fundamental government programs that would eviscerate America and send millions into destitution. Act III: A statesman-like president appeals for bipartisanship, a flurry of last-minute negotiations ensues, resulting in a “historic” and satisfying agreement that enables America to move forward. Hogwash.

Neither party has produced a credible plan for managing our debt and maintaining the creditworthiness of the United States government. Democrats are committed to a cradle-to-grave entitlement state, whatever the cost, and if the economy has to be wrecked through massive taxation, that’s the price of social justice. Republicans are in denial about the reality of our problems, and remain addicted to big government when it comes to defense spending, pork, and promoting a particular social agenda. A plague on both of their houses.

But it’s not really the politicians’ fault. At least not entirely. Politicians want approval and votes. If they don’t vote to make hard choices, it’s because they’re worried about voter backlash. They need help.

So here’s my crazy idea. Social programs are so ingrained in the lifeblood of America that many of us don’t even think about them anymore. Everyone “benefits” from some pet program; when it comes to cutting spending, we want the other guy’s ox gored. This means nothing ever really gets cut. Government grows, the debt grows and the can gets kicked down the road to our children.

How can we break the cycle? First, find some program that you benefit from or plan to in the future. Pick a privilege enshrined into law that you darn well think you deserve. Then write your representatives in the House and Senate and tell them you are willing to see it cut or even abolished altogether, if other programs get the knife too. Tell them you’ll do this because we all have to sacrifice to make America better. Tell them you’ll vote only for leaders with the guts to make that happen.

Imagine how different things would be if farmers lobbied to end crop subsidies, the elderly demanded cuts in Social Security, active duty military stood up for cuts in veteran’s benefits, welfare recipients said, “We’d rather work for less than welfare pays,” and union workers put their pensions on the table. Imagine if the Pentagon said “We do not want to protect America at the price of bankrupting her,” and put their budget on the chopping block, too.

Think of how this would steal the Democrat’s thunder. Traditionally, the Democrats are big on sacrificing for the common good, but the only kind of sacrifice they can imagine is a tax increase. They’ve become so used to government looting from group A and giving to group B that the idea of spending cuts for the common good is incomprehensible.

Think of how the stock market would respond to a government that gets its house in order. Think of the economic growth that a sound, stable fiscal policy would make possible, when government no longer crowded out investment capital with its insatiable appetite for taxing, spending and borrowing.

An impossible dream? Perhaps, at least for now. But cuts and pain will come anyway; the only question is how we will bear them. Any vision of a better future for America must include spending cuts and a reduction in the size and scope of government. Sadly, this latest debt-ceiling deal is not even close.


Readers may contact Dr. fagin at barry@faginfamily.net

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