Thinking about the deficit isn’t easy, and not only because of the stupefying sums involved. The difficulty arises because we apply a different standard to government misconduct than we would to individual wrongdoing. We should not.
Consider this example. X has no funds in her bank account. Nevertheless, she continues to write checks against the empty account. X’s debt collectors and bank manager confront her. Imagine their reaction when X tells them what the president told CNBC’s Ron Insana in a Sept. 5 interview. The anchor had asked the president who was to blame for the deficit.
“It’s not my doing; it’s not anyone’s responsibility,” X mimics, as coolly unfazed as the commander in chief. “Due to the ‘recession,’ my sugar daddy was only working one job this month. I overdrew on my account because there were fewer funds in it,” or, as the president chose to justify his delinquency, because “less revenues (sic) were coming in.”
“Given all the good causes I spend the money on, you can’t possibly expect me to make do with so little. If anything, you ought to extend my credit; it’s only a matter of time until my good sponsor finds more work,” X assures her creditors, much like the president does.
At least the labor Ms. X lives off is voluntary; should she refuse to tailor her spending to her budget, her sponsor is free to withdraw his financial support.
The president, and his legions of ponces, has a nation of serfs who supply the treasury, but unlike Ms. X’s supporter, the president’s peons cannot withhold their coerced contributions.
His no-fault deficits the president justifies with anodyne references to the interminable “war on terror” – government theft is always said to be in the service of the greater good or in the public interest. The claims about government’s altruism are dubious, at best. The essential moral point, however, is this:
The law, already too lenient with respect to bankruptcy, doesn’t allow bankrupt individuals to further descend into debt and enslave others, well into the future, in the service of their liability, not even for a good cause. If private citizens are not permitted to commit such naturally illegal acts, why do we tolerate it from government? Theft is theft no matter who commits it. If government wastrels spend what they don’t have and then proceed to indenture citizens to pay for it, this ought to be treated as a crime.
Contrary to X’s overextended bank account, or even to the misdeeds of a defaulting corporation, the president’s inability to keep his hand out of the till can hobble the nation’s $10.5 trillion economy.
It’s not that deficits as a percentage of the overall economy have never been this high – they have. Rather, it’s the pattern of dedicated spending that makes all the difference. Mr. Bush has increased government squandering by a stunning 24 percent since taking office, a trend he began well before September 11 fell into his lap.
Considering the expected new spending for territorial occupation, national defense, homeland security and prescription drugs, the National Center For Policy Analysis’ forecast should not come as a surprise. Deficits could total $5 trillion over the next decade. By 2013, publicly held debt may rise to a crippling 51 percent of GDP.
It doesn’t help that Democrats and Republicans alike, and the partisan commentators who hoot and holler for them, insist that no expense must be spared on Iraq. And boy oh boy, are Americans paying top dollar to their newest welfare satellite, forking over exorbitant amounts for the most outrageous schemes, the kind only seasoned embezzlers with unlimited expense accounts could hatch. While millions of Americans give up on searching for phantom jobs, bevies of bureaucrats, at the minimum wage of a six-figure salary, flock to Iraq to dispense their “expertise.”
This huge increase in government spending entails a shift of resources from the private sector to the public sector. This realignment is responsible for the delay in economic recovery.
In the Insana interview, Mr. Bush proves, once again, his socialist sympathies. Like the Democrats (and their chief economist, Paul Krugman of the New York Times), he too blames the deficit, to an extent, on tax cuts. (But then Mr. Bush would blame his mother, Barbara, before acknowledging his prodigal habits.) Since the private sector always makes better and more efficient use of resources than government, this is poppycock. In addition to being economically more efficient, taking tax money from politicians and returning it to its rightful owners, the taxpayers, serves the cause of justice.
“The spending explosion, not the tax cuts, is the largest cause of the big increase in deficits,” confirms Richard K. Vedder, distinguished professor of economics at Ohio University. “Activist government” is “crowding out more productive private activity.”
Unlike Mr. Bush, business cannot risk bankruptcy – “the private sector faces market discipline, competition and the bottom line of profits, which governments do not,” writes Vedder. The private economy will thus continue to act cautiously, leaving Mr. Bush to celebrate a ghostly “jobless recovery.” (Can Americans be persuaded that a eunuch is virile?)
Americans who wish to see a measure of prosperity – and jobs – return to their communities should demand an end to the almost daily federal outlays, including those for Iraq: Downsize the government to fit the available funds!