Posts Tagged ‘Paul Ryan’

America’s politics are more and more resembling those of the Soviet Union, where very little is at stake, 90% of the issues are off the table and decided by committees of connected elites, and the  theater of politics, including elections, are there mostly to cover up the reality. 

Last week we observed vitriolic denunciations and counter-denunciations of Republicans and Democrats in the run-up to the budget funding bill, but in the end only $60B (and possibly less) was ultimately cut.  These cuts only affected the small sliver of discretionary spending.  This is chump change when we have a $1T yearly deficit and tens of trillions(!) of unfunded liabilities in the decades ahead.

Obama this week in a highly partisan speech denounced the Republican proposals, in particular those of the fairly serious Paul Ryan, as mean-spirited and violative of the American “social compact.”  His liberal supporters swooned at his passionate defense of the welfare state, but in doing so he and they as well remind us that they are not serious people and are not taking seriously the unfunded liabilities that cannot be sustained in the decades ahead.  Something must give. 

Republicans may not be terribly serious or courageous on average, but a few of them are very serious and are saying what needs to be said about the budget problems.  Of course, sacred cows like our bloated defense budget, bailouts for banks, various forms of corporate welfare such as farm subsidies, and much else should be on the table.  But at least the topic of our fiscal problems is on the table among Republicans and not dealt with through magical thinking, as in the mind of Obama.  Much of the credit belongs to the Tea Party, the amorphous collection of grass roots conservative activists who were not terribly impressed with W’s spending spree and were jolted into action by Obama Care.  This movement, while containing many unserious people, has at its core a very serious point:  we are spending ourselves into oblivion and must get a handle on it or our country will destroy itself. 

Obama is no leader.  I believe he knows the fiscal crisis to be a reality, but he also knows that it would be very costly politically to do something about it.  He has been willing to expend this capital to grow the welfare state into a permanent institution that makes everyone a welfare case through Obamacare, but he has not done what is necessary to preserve (or sensibly reduce) the commitments already made in the form of Medicare, Social Security, and much else.  This reveals him as what I always thought he was:  a coward, a mouthpiece for conventional Democratic Party talking points, and someone indifferent about America’s strength and prosperity.

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Debt Delusion

The recent budget fight is simply a precursor of what must be done.  Both sides are still playing small ball, messing with discretionary spending, when the huge entitlement bomb is going to cause our demise.  While Democratis cry about “cruel” budgets, our debt will go up more this week (about $50B) than the $38B or so that Congress was able to agree to cut.  We’re using bandaids and aspirin when wholesale amputation and emergency surgery is required.  Columnist Robert Samuelson put the matter well in his column today:

We in America have created suicidal government; the threatened federal shutdown and stubborn budget deficits are but symptoms. By suicidal, I mean that government has promised more than it can realistically deliver and, as a result, repeatedly disappoints by providing less than people expect or jeopardizing what they already have. But government can’t easily correct its excesses, because Americans depend on it for so much that any effort to change the status arouses a firestorm of opposition that virtually ensures defeat. Government’s very expansion has brought it into disrepute, paralyzed politics and impeded it from acting in the national interest.

Few Americans realize the extent of their dependency. The Census Bureau reports that in 2009 almost half (46.2 percent) of the 300 million Americans received at least one federal benefit: 46.5 million, Social Security; 42.6 million, Medicare; 42.4 million, Medicaid; 36.1 million, food stamps; 3.2 million, veterans’ benefits; 12.4 million, housing subsidies.

While Paul Krugman cries that Obama is a wimp and Republicans are cruel, it is our continued, insane-level of deficit spending that is cruel.  It has real practical consequences today ($5 gas) and tomorrow (a shrinking, sclerotic, no jobs economy).  There are signs of seriousness and hope among both voters (the Tea Party) and politicians (Paul Ryan, for example),  but one wonders if the stars can align for the kind of serious courage needed to get this sorted out before we have a real Greek-style meltdown.

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