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March 09, 2011

DOOM, Served Hot Off the Grill

This is the "more later" post that Ace was talking about, a bookend post by the same Veronique de Rugy linked in the first piece.

Read this link and weep. We are in a classic debt spiral from which there is probably no escape. The mandatory spending numbers will never go down, and debt-service will eat ruthlessly away at the remaining portion of the federal budget. (Most of the states are in the same fiscal boat.) Pretty soon, our government will exist to do two things only: send out welfare checks, and pay the vig on our mind-boggling debt.

And even our debt, formerly considered a safe haven by nearly everyone in the world, ain't what it used to be. This is why our borrowing costs are going up...way up. Pull quote:

The major entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid — other “mandatory” spending, national defense, and interest on the debt make up more than 80 percent of federal spending.

If you prefer your DOOM video-style: I've got you covered.

We cannot tax our way out of this hole. We cannot grow our way out economically. We cannot use demographics to work our way out over time (in fact, we're barely maintaining a replacement rate of reproduction as it is, and most of that reproducing is among the least productive of our citizenry).

We cannot vote the problem away. The only solution that would really work -- draconian cuts to entitlement programs and a serious effort to pay down the national debt -- would require a level of austerity that few Americans have the stomach for. This means that a political solution to this problem is also pretty much impossible. There is no political solution to this dilemma because neither the citizens nor the politicians are willing to do what is necessary. (Nor is it simply a Democrat/GOP divide. As we have all seen in the Social Security threads I and others have posted, even many conservatives bristle when faced with cuts to their own programs.)

Example: all liberals, and even many conservatives, quail at the harshness of the so-called "Ryan Roadmap", and insist that it's not "politically doable". Well, guess what? The Ryan roadmap is the best attempt by a politician I've seen so far at solving this problem -- and it barely scratches the surface. Even if every single one of its reforms were adopted right now, it probably would take decades for us to get back on an even fiscal keel. And I don't think we have that kind of time.

We lost this battle when the debate stopped being about whether the government should provide a gigantic welfare state, and began to be about how we would fund it.

Remember this, if you remember nothing else: it will never be any easier or cheaper to fix this problem than it is right now. The longer we wait, the more catastrophic the outcome will be. If we will not impose discipline on ourselves, the market will do it for us.


Here's a picture of a cute kitty to ease the burn:


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posted by Monty at 09:02 PM

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