The United States has morphed into Star Trek’s USS Enterprise, “to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Few, however, would call what is going on here “bold.” Here are some troubling numbers and observations to contemplate during our journey into what may become the final frontier.
The United States has morphed into Star Trek’s USS Enterprise, “to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Few, however, would call what is going on here “bold.” Here are some troubling numbers and observations to contemplate during our journey into what may become the final frontier:
- Statistically, each one of our 312 million citizens is on the hook for close to $200,000 of federal government debt, a higher per-capita debt than Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, all of which are currently on life support, unfortunately without a
“Do Not Resuscitate” order.
- The last time Congress bothered to pass a budget was four years ago.
- Thirty-two separate congressional committees decide — independently of each other — who will get to spend what each year. No one coordinates the overall picture. This ridiculous, Balkanized process contributes a lot to our perennial deficits.
- The government’s debt-to-annual-income ratio is 60:1, meaning we owe 60 times as much as we take in annually. You have to be a lunatic to invest in this turkey (fortunately, China is).
- The U.S. owes almost 900 percent of its GDP, a higher amount than any other developed country — in history.
- The Feds have run a deficit 48 out of the last 53 years.
- The government is bankrupt, only no one will admit it.
Democrats stick their heads in the sand whenever the topic of reining in runaway entitlement programs comes up. Republicans do the same whenever their Daddy Warbucks backers whine about taxes. It is only a matter of (very little) time before both choke on the sand engulfing their heads.
A classic example of sandy suffocation is the AARP, which along with what little is left of organized labor, strongly influences the Democratic Party. AARP fans the flames of hysteria among its 37 million-plus members (almost all of whom actually vote) whenever the subject of exerting some control over the runaway growth of entitlements comes up. Instead of advancing constructive solutions to what is a very real, existential problem, the organization just shrieks loudly and frantically, causing the Dems to run for the hills.
Republicans are no better. The easiest solution to the Social Security funding problem is to eliminate the earnings cap subject to the FICA tax (currently $113,700). Mandating FICA contributions for everyone making more than that very nice amount fully solves the Social Security component of the entitlements mess for the next 70 years, until 2083. No one gets hurt. But, OMG! That would be a tax on the wealthy who dictate to the GOP. Republicans cannot have that. Instead, they — and shockingly, President Obama — propose reducing benefits for recipients by cooking the annual-cost-of-living (COLA) formula, which already understates actual COLA increases. This would, of course, severely hurt the tens of millions of Americans whose sole source of income is Social Security.
Page 2 of 2 - Feeble and boneheaded attempts (see sequestration) to cut the deficit and reduce the debt are always done at the expense of the people who need government services the most. Food stamps, welfare-to-work initiatives, child care, early childhood education all suffer. Meanwhile, the Defense Department keeps spending like a drunken sailor (literally in the case of the U.S. Navy), while complaining about the miniscule cuts they have to endure. When listening to the constant whine emanating from the Pentagon, keep in mind that at the most dangerous period of the Cold War — 1959-1960 — when the threat of nuclear annihilation loomed, General/President Eisenhower said that his defense budget of $400 billion in 2013 dollars (50 percent less than today’s), was far too high. Today, of course, we do not face extinction.
When the concept of national leadership (a king and his councilors back then) first emerged in Egypt and Mesopotamia 5,000 years ago, one of the prime movers behind it was the need for individuals powerful enough to take care of the poor and downtrodden who could not care for themselves. That commendable concern does not exist in the U.S. today. Our recent presidential campaign was fraught with propagandistic references to the plight of the middle class. Any concern for the 50 million Americans living in poverty was virtually non-existent.
There are countless ways to reduce our debt and deficits without dumping that burden so disproportionately on the backs of the 50 million Americans (18 million are children) living in poverty. Please, politicians, no more empty rhetoric about equal opportunity. Your actions contradict you.
“Rants” is a series of political and social observations written by part-time Canandaigua resident and Canandaigua Academy graduate Richard Hermann. Email him care of Messenger Post Media at firstname.lastname@example.org.