Policitians: hurting us more than they help

I know I'm not the only person concerned about the national debt. It's astronomical, quickly approaching $14 trillion. The scariest part is that virtually all of that was accrued in my lifetime (I'm 31). The national debt is a tax. It raises interest rates on everything and devalues the dollar. Much of our debt is owned by foreign countries, and we better hope they don't plan on cashing it in anytime soon. How do we fix this mess?

The truth is, no one really wants to do what has to be done. Money does not grow on trees, and there are basically two ways for the government to reduce this horrible, out-of-control deficit spending: raise taxes and cut spending. It really is that simple. Both parties want to cut taxes, but Republicans want to cut taxes for everyone, including the wealthiest Americans. Democrats want to cut taxes for everyone except the wealthiest Americans, because that tax revenue would help reduce the annual deficits. And contrary to the posturing on TV, both parties want increased spending. Congresspeople want spending for their districts – "pork", as it were, and they don't want to give it up because it helps them get elected. And sorry Republicans, but spending ballooned under Reagen, H.W. Bush and W. Bush. Both Reagan and W. Bush doubled the national debt. The only administration in my lifetime that reduced the national debt was Clinton.

The fact is, we gullible Americans fall for it every election year – we want more tax cuts! We should just cut spending, right? In principle, cutting spending sounds like a good idea. So, what shall we cut? Medicare? Oh no, we can't cut that, millions rely on it! Social Security? Ditto! Defense? No, we can't let our guard down even a tiny bit or someone will kill us! When pressed about where exactly they would cut spending, Republicans talk about "discretionary spending" – all that miscellaneous stuff besides the big stuff that we, the electorate, will not budge on. From the NY Times:
The House Republican leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, has called for immediate cuts in “non-security discretionary” spending to prerecession 2008 levels. Independent analysts say that would require eliminating about $105 billion — or more than 20 percent of spending by departments like Education, Transportation, Interior, Commerce and Energy — a level of reductions that history suggests would be extremely hard to execute. (Since 1982, nonmilitary discretionary spending has never dropped by more than 5.5 percentage points in any given year.)
Federal debt isn't that much different than consumer debt in the sense that if you spend more than you can afford, you go into debt. And just like getting out of consumer debt means making lots of sacrifices, so too is the road out of federal debt. We can raise taxes on the wealthy, who tend to pack money away. We can start a VAT – a national sales tax. We can give up medicare, medicaid, or social security. We can drastically cut defense spending and get the hell out of the Middle East.

Of all those, only the very first seemed possible, and it got stonewalled by a staunchly ideological Republican house. Remember how, despite W. Bush doubling the national debt, Republicans blasted Obama for deficit spending? Well, those tax breaks for the wealthy are going to be financed entirely by adding to the national debt – which, ironically, is an insidious tax burden on all Americans.

There is a way out, but will we ever make the sacrifices necessary? Of course not. We'll just react when we're forced to, like we always do.


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