It was a nice country while it lasted, but the good old US of A must now be recycled into something else. Why? Because we’re broke.
We’ve known that for 20 years, but now we know something else: We’re too deep in the hole to ever get out without being whittled into something viable. We must more than double payroll taxes immediately or trash Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid. Either would bring enormous suffering and collapse. But because there is zero political will to repent about this, we are destined to turn into history’s largest fireball.
I fondly hope the new America will bear some striking resemblances to the old one. I really loved the USA of my youth – the land of Lincoln and Washington, the united-we-stand, purple-mountained, wide-open-spaces, red, white and blue melting pot made from Pilgrim horsepower, tail-kicking armies, free-market capital and pure Yankee ingenuity … all resting on a bedrock of Christian piety left over from our Puritan forebears – a now-squandered inheritance of spiritual capital.
As I sit typing these lines, I can turn my eyes slightly and see out my window the bottom of Ute Pass, where my grandfather drove his wagon up into the Rockies to rip-roaring Cripple Creek, where Mom was born in a tarpaper shack in 1907. Granddad never struck gold, so he eventually had to leave. He departed with a lingering case of emphysema, but eventually wound up as the five-time mayor of Craig, Colo.
In those rustic days, you did what you had to do … and you seldom had the luxury of getting very far away from bedrock reality.
Not so today. Our wealth and limitless credit in the world’s markets made us oblivious to the very real possibility of bankruptcy. And America’s effete, politically correct atmosphere often made us feel apologetic for merely exercising common sense and biblical morality. As Shakespeare put it, “For in the fatness of these pursey times, virtue itself of vice must pardon beg.”
But how did the God-kissed enterprise that started with Paul Revere’s ride end up as the bankrupt aftermath of history’s most colossal spending spree?
It came in stages. Start anywhere you want: the proliferation of slavery, the establishment of the Fed and the income tax in 1913, the Armory art show the same year, Roosevelt’s New Deal, whatever. In my youth, a lot of brickbats were thrown in presidential elections, but we always reunited and pulled together afterward. However, following Adlai Stevenson’s predictable second loss to Eisenhower in 1956, I noticed a sharp change. Democrats’ nonstop bitterness became a permanent hallmark of our time. Bipartisan patriotism and cooperation was scorned.
On Nov. 22, 1963, even the hope of better times was lost. The door was opened to the losing Johnson-McNamara war in Vietnam, the beatniks and flower children turned into tripped-out hippies, and an anti-Christian counterculture sprang up, leading by steps to today’s nihilistic Postmodernism.
Finally, when Reagan’s tax cuts produced a mini-flood of dollars into the nation’s coffers, it was too much for our politicians to handle. The national debt, which had metastasized to $930 million under Carter, exploded to $2.6 trillion under Reagan, despite his best intentions.
Congressional spending continued to skyrocket under the senior Bush (to $4 trillion), Clinton (to $5.6 trillion), and junior Bush (to $8.4 trillion currently). See a running clock of our debt.
But that’s just a small part of our near-future obligations like Medicare, Social Security and military retirement. Recent expert testimony before Congress said that it would take an immediate injection of $65 trillion to put the country on a “sustainable course.” (Dr. Gary North notes that this is $20 trillion more than the combined value of all U.S. homes, land and corporations.)
In other words, we have borrowed $65 trillion from our children, putting them into eternal bondage to an unpayable mountain of debt … unless we drop back and punt very soon.
If we just let matters drift toward chaos, we could trigger an explosion in the unspeakably vast tangle of financial derivatives ($499 trillion at last count), an interlocked network of private and corporate contracts designed to spring into play upon any major financial shift. The exploding derivatives tail could obliterate the USA dog in minutes.
Yet in the spiritual dimension I remain very upbeat – if only because God has a habit of using the suffering caused by our stupidities to bring revival, renewal and a whole new way of life.