Jewish World Review April 27, 2011 / 23 Nissan, 5771
He's Serious, All Right, But Not About the Deficit
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The elephant in the room is getting harder and harder to ignore. It's not just bigger than ever, but threatens to go on a rampage that could lay waste everything around it. This particular elephant has a name: the national debt.
The neighbors who have been propping it up -- by buying the government's bonds -- can't help but notice how huge it's become, and wonder how safe they'll be once the beast gets completely out of control.
Our creditors around the world have begun to sell America short. They grow less and less confident about this country's ability to ever rein in our deficits. Soon they may demand more interest on the bonds they've been buying -- or even switch from the dollar to some other reserve currency for world trade.
Such a development would only aggravate the vicious cycle that our spendthrift ways have set in motion. More debt means higher interest rates means more inflation means a stagnant economy in which prices rise but the economy declines.
Sound familiar? Think of the Carter Years, which gave us a new word for this whole, demoralizing, debilitating process: stagflation. That specter now haunts the American economy again: Stagflation II.
The full faith and credit of
How many times can the country's debt limit be raised, how many more dollars can be run off the printing presses before foreign investors catch on, and pull the rug out from under us? They've already started to wise up. Which is why all of us agree that it's time to finally set our fiscal house in order. (Well, all of us excepting the usual ideologues who think inflation is the universal remedy for all our economic woes.)
The president says he understands this can't go on. Hard decisions will have to be made. So, like the smooth politician he is, he's called on others to make them. It's the first resort of any leader who'd really rather somebody else did the heavy lifting: Appoint a bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission to take the heat. This one is called Bowles-Simpson after its two chairmen and, sure enough, it's come up with a whole list of steps so responsible this president isn't about to endorse them:
Cut federal spending by
Put all of Bowles-Simpson's recommendations together and they add up to a fine start on the country's fiscal problems, which means they could also be the end of any such hope. For it would take political courage, that rarest of commodities in
The president appointed the commission, but now acts as if that were quite enough. His specialty is preaching, not practice. A great one for substituting words for action, he proposes a
This president's revenue projections seem to have been put together by that well-known
Mr. Ryan is willing to risk that most politically perilous of tasks: talking sense to the American people. About no less sensitive a subject than the way we throw money around. A drunken sailor would look like a skinflint in
The particulars of
His plan may be politically foolhardy, but it is fiscally responsible. So the president is now attacking its author as the kind of hard-hearted Republican (or do we repeat ourselves?) who'd throw Grandma out into the snow, followed by any small children around at the time.
Unfortunately for the president, just as he was opening his re-election campaign in a coast-to-coast blitz of speechifying, those spoilsports at
The administration responded by sending out spokespersons in all televised directions to blow off
This president has a standard answer for any and all who point out the dangers to the economy posed by a national debt that has grown from huge to gargantuan on his watch: It's all
But the analysts at
It's hard to argue with figures like that, but the Democrats will. There's no end to the fun to be had with numbers, and any partisan can quote them selectively. What matters just now isn't so much who's to blame for this mess but how we're going to get out of it.
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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.
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