August 4, 2011

An Ill-Fated Voyage

The US Government is like the sinking Titanic. Republicans are compulsively rearranging deck chairs while Democrats want to take another pass at that iceberg. Ron Paul and a few friends are standing off to the side with some life boats trying to get people's attention, but nobody is listening because they're all threatening to kill each other over whether the captain should have hit the iceberg head-on.

I posted that little quip to Google+ yesterday and got several approvals, so I broke my recent taboo and posted it to Facebook and got several more. Those who liked it varied across the political spectrum. I think that shows that it's a fitting analogy, and that people are aware of just how bad the situation is.

To anyone who is paying attention, it should be mostly self-explanatory. The iceberg is the massive economic disaster that we've been flirting with for several years now. The proverbial deck chairs represent the few billion dollars here and there that the populist Republicans have fought so hard for while the Democrats want to dump more money into the hole. Only an ideological few, mostly libertarian leaning leaders are willing to call out the political games for what they are and demand fundamental changes to our way of doing things.

That last part about fighting over past decisions seems like a silly hyperbole, but it's actually the part of the analogy that I find most true. You see, Titanic was built with a compartmental design to withstand a collision with an iceberg. But when the captain saw the ice at the last moment, either out of panic and lack of trust in the ship's cunning design, or for confidence in his own skill and wanting to minimize the impact, he chose to divert, resulting in more damage. It is likely that this maneuver actually doomed the ship.

Likewise, when facing a mounting economic disaster likely spurred on by decades of political maneuvering, our government chose to take drastic and short-sighted action rather than let the free market take its course, meet the crisis head on, and come out leaner and healthier on the other side. By pushing our already enormous national debt to completely unsustainable levels (now outweighing our GPD and putting us into the same category as the heavily indebted European nations that are now facing economic collapse) they have likely doomed our economy in the long run.

Unfortunately, what's done is done. Whether it was tax cuts, multiple wars, bailouts, stimulus funding, massive healthcare overhaul, or a fundamentally broken system, the money was spent and now it is owed. They have borrowed over $14.5 trillion from both American and foreign creditors, while piling spending on top of irresponsible spending. But much of the political rhetoric being tossed around is about how bad those decisions were, how it should have been done differently, how things might have ended up if only, how many puppies Obamacare has kicked. The fact is, those things did happen, we do have a national debt greater than our GDP, we are borrowing and spending at unsustainable rates, and the US Dollar is in decline. Nothing we say now, and little that we try to undo, is going to change that.

That's where the lifeboats come in. A few prescient leaders have been warning us about the reality of the situation for a while now, but most of us have been too caught up in mudslinging to take notice. The "spending cut" that supposedly solved the debt crisis merely says that the government will spend a few trillion less than it had otherwise planned to over the next ten years, much of which will be borrowed. This ~$2.4 trillion, a number unfathomable to most people, is still only pocket change to the $15 trillion debt that is still rising- and, per the same legislation, authorized to rise- bounded only by the continued wrangling of Congress. This massive number is in turn dwarfed by the $114.5 trillion unfunded liabilities, the money which the government is already planning to spend but can't afford. Yes, that is one hundred trillion dollars greater than what we already owe.

Ron Paul, who has been warning of this for years, and his son Rand are two who have been pushing hard for a balanced budget amendment that would ban deficit spending altogether. A requirement for a vote on such an amendment made its way into the law, which may prove to be its greatest victory. Ron has also long been a vocal advocate of returning to the gold standard, which would effectively prevent the government from monetizing debt by simply printing more fiat currency and devaluing the money supply. At this point even such revolutionary actions may not be enough. We may be in for an economic collapse, and abandoning a doomed ship may be our only recourse. We're already past the oft-quoted 200 year average lifespan of great civilizations, and it looks like the "American Century" may be cut short.

It's time for a paradigm shift. The federal government got us into this mess, but left to its own devices it's not going to get us out. Our lifeboats are state and local governments committed to financial responsibility and personal freedom; election of leaders who will take courageous and unpopular action to bring our debt and spending under control and reign in the unconstitutional expansion of the federal government; and a firm reliance on God, not the State, as our provider and protector. Are you going to climb in, or will you listen to the band play until the ship goes down?

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