I’m occasionally accused of being too gloomy when it comes to America’s future. That certainly isn’t my intention. There is some melodrama to my personality, but those who know me well recognize that I’m an optimist at heart. It was my optimism that blinded me to the strength of the Obama campaign and its victory over Mitt Romney.
Perhaps you’ve been out to a nice dinner lately. Is it a doomsday prophecy to know that at the end of the meal a bill will be presented? If you spend on your credit card, is it pessimism or gloom to realize that you must have a plan for paying that charge when the statement comes in the mail? Of course not. These are simple economic realities.
I spent years in Catholic seminaries. From 1983-1986 I studied in Rome, Italy, and resided at the preparatory residence established there by the American bishops of the Catholic Church. It is known as the North American College. At the time there was a terrible economic situation in Ethiopia. Because of historic colonial ties, many Ethiopians were immigrating to Italy in search of a better way of life. Some of my seminary brothers were engaged in ministries to assist them.
A few of those brothers who were particularly justice-minded proposed that some empty rooms in our residence be turned over to a few of the refugees. They developed a plan for the accommodation of our proposed guests, including their dining and personal-care needs, how they would travel to and from work, and how they would interact with the seminary community.
Then the seminary rector called a mandatory meeting of the entire student body. I’ll never forget his speech to us. As we sat there with wide eyes and laudable goals, he began by thanking the community for its commitment to justice. He recognized the planning committee for its work and he expressed support for their goals of helping the immigrants in need.
Then he asked a simple but demanding question, one that we must also ask. For affect, he used the native language of the Italian people. Firmly, but with a gentle tone, he looked at us from his rector’s podium and he asked: Chi paga?
Whether you put it in Italian or English, it’s just two words: Chi paga? Who pays?
The wise among the student body got it. In our zeal to reach out to those in need, we idealistic seminarians were putting all the burden on the institution. We expected it to provide free rooms to the needy, and free board as well. We were talking about spending money belonging to someone else rather than taking on responsibility ourselves.
Another example comes to mind from my childhood. My brother had friends who liked to work on motors: cars, lawnmowers, or whatever. He was always lending my father’s tools to his friends. That wasn’t a problem except for one thing. He usually never secured the return of the items that had been lent! On many a day off, Dad went to the tool box to find that a needed item for a household chore was missing. “Where is my crescent wrench?” he would ask. My brother would sheepishly admit that he had lent it to a friend some time back and that it had never been returned.
How easy it is to be careless with the things that we don’t pay for. How quick we are to demand that the money and efforts of others be spent as we see fit, or worse, that they be spent on us.
This is exactly where we Americans find ourselves at this moment in our national history. Slightly more than half the voters on Tuesday chose to ignore the fiscal insanity of our federal leadership–including more than $16 Trillion of growing debt and the failure to even pass a budget. Our credit rating has suffered and been cut repeatedly (even as recently as September), yet the debt continues to sore and most of the media give President Obama a pass on the matter. It is widely expected that in Obama’s second term the debt will reach at least $20 Trillion, and White House data appears to support that expectation.
Half the country has set the course for the other half. It won’t be a pleasant journey.
Two things seem self-evident.
1. The trillions of tax dollars spent by Obama and his fellow Democrats were an investment in his re-election. Millions of Americans voted on Tuesday to keep the benefits coming. Though I find their thinking to be short-sighted and economically dangerous, I understand why they did it. 49% of us pay no federal income tax. 47% of us live in a household where someone is receiving a government benefit. The presidential election should have been about long-term economic recovery and the salvaging of American prestige on the international scene. Instead, it was a vote to keep the presents coming from the Democrats. The major problem with this particular holiday story is that instead of elves who make toys, Obama Claus pays for his gifts on the backs of the people and businesses that could rescue our economy if given a chance. They won’t get that chance for four more years. I see no reason that Obama won’t continue to retard economic expansion with his political extortion. He will do this by securing the cooperation of the Democrats of the Senate and by making the Republican-controlled House of Representatives look selfish.
2. Despite the talk of pending disaster when we go over a “fiscal cliff” on January 1st (if the “Bush tax cuts” expire), the fact is that we went over the cliff three days ago. Ron Paul agrees. Remember the old saying: it’s not the fall that kills you–it’s the sudden stop. We have been racing toward the cliff’s edge for years. It began under George W. Bush and it has accelerated to frightening proportions in Obama’s first term. Voting to continue that dangerous momentum this week, a slim majority of Americans tipped the balance as we sat on the precipice. We went over the edge and we’re now engaged in a rapid descent. When we hit rock bottom you won’t have to ask if this is the time or not. You’ll know.
One way or the other, the bill must always be paid. Just because government is large, convoluted, and serpentine doesn’t mean that it’s exempt from the laws of economics. Money today is nothing more than an idea propped upon a hope. It is created daily by the Federal Reserve and the banks of the nation. It has more to do with electronic data than with anything of concrete value.
America is broke. Like people who are broke, that doesn’t mean we can’t get our hands on money. We can always fool someone into giving us credit. At this point Americans are just fooling themselves. Even the wisest spendthrift eventually gets caught. His credit is cut off and his debt must be addressed.
We don’t have to slam the poor. We don’t have to abandon a strong military. We simply have to get serious about fiscal responsibility. In Washington, they don’t want to do that because it will anger somebody and cost them votes. This move has been in the political play book a long time. A slim majority of us fell for it again on Tuesday.
When the bill comes due and the credit card is cut in half, Americans will be forced into fiscal maturity. It will hurt a great deal more at that time then it would have hurt now.
Even the strongest of pack animals cannot bear all the weight of the world. Our economy cannot sustain the increased strain being placed upon it by redistribution schemes and taxes. The pony’s back will eventually break. It’s no wonder that so many have suggested such a goal from the beginning of the Obama administration. This idea has a name. It’s called the Cloward-Piven Strategy and it was first proposed in the 1960s by two ultra-liberal academics. The idea is to overwhelm the welfare system until it collapses. Afterward, a system of guaranteed income will be set in its place. In other words, the socialism that failed in the USSR and Eastern Europe.
While addressing his campaign staff on Wednesday, Obama wept. They may be tears of joy as well as disbelief. Who could have imagined that any single president could do so much damage and still be re-elected to a second term?
Obama’s dream of the “fundamental transformation of America” is only half finished. Even he is probably shocked that he gets four more years to bring it to completion.