Every few months, the US government closes in on its self-imposed “debt ceiling.” Every few months the American public gets treated to theatrics on whether or not that ceiling should be “raised,” complete with hysterical projections of doom if the politicians aren’t allowed to spend as much money as they want, on anything they might happen to covet. And every few months the ruling parties agree to let themselves borrow more money instead of living within their means.
Why don’t America’s politicians balance their collective checkbook? Because they don’t believe they have to.
It’s not that it would be difficult. In fact, it would be quite easy.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that for fiscal year 2014 the US government will spend $514 billion more than it steals in tax revenue. But that government could cut its military spending by $514 billion and still be the third largest “defense” spender in the world (behind only Russia and China).
In reality, as nation-states go, the US shouldn’t even be in the top 10. It has no current (or likely near-future) enemies on its borders. It’s separated from its most likely and dangerous enemies by thousands of miles of ocean, tundra or other nation-states. And cutting its military spending to a not quite so insanely unreasonable level would make it less, not more, likely to embark on the kinds of global misadventures its spendthrift politicians pursue as an obsessive hobby.
So let’s dispense with the fiction that the US government faces a dilemma or conundrum of some sort to which increased indebtedness is the only plausible response. It’s just plainly untrue. It could balance its budget today and be better off for it, not just fiscally but in nearly every other respect as well.
So again: Why don’t they?
And again: Because they don’t believe they have to.
After all, they’ve been getting away with overtly stealing double-digit percentages of your work and wealth, and borrowing similar amounts from lenders (who expect them to keep stealing that much and more to make payments) for decades, without apparent penalty.
And just like all freeloaders and junkies, they’ve convinced themselves that the party never has to end, that they can just keep on keeping on and wheedle or beat ever more money out of us as needed.
Heck, they’ve even written a “no crushing our buzz” clause into the US Constitution: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law … shall not be questioned.”
Horse-hockey. They’ve amassed such a mountain of debt at this point that no reasonable person ever expects it to be paid off, and the notion that that debt is “public” is pure nonsense. We’re not the ones kiting checks. They are. We’re not responsible for the fortunes of their criminal enterprises; it’s all on them.
At some point, both the debt and the politicians who incurred it will be not just “questioned,” but repudiated — by the rest of us. And the sooner the better.
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