Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ah, love, let us be true to one another...

The US hit the debt ceiling on Monday.

So we're spending much more than we make, owe cosmic amounts of money to our creditors*, and are printing money to pay the interest on our debt so that we can borrow more to pay our bills. And now we've reached the legal limit on how much we can borrow, and the debate is over how much to raise that limit by, and whose careers will suffer or prosper by the conditions.

Let's be honest here: the United States' economic crisis cannot be addressed without cutting back materially on Medicare, Social Security, and military spending, and probably raising taxes to boot. Anybody who declares any of those realms untouchable is not serious about averting this crisis.

The popular government programs that so many people have been made dependent on can probably be saved, at least in the short term, but not at their current levels. If we don't cut back intelligently on them while we still have the chance, targeting them to a narrower group of people whose survival is most dependent on them, they'll collapse entirely when we finally reach the point that we're out of money and nobody will lend to us**. It doesn't matter whether you believe government support is a human right when there's literally nothing to give. If we come to that point, you can blame the liberals who stomped their feet and refused to allow even modest cuts to the programs as much as you can blame the conservatives who pounded their fists and demanded they be completely dismantled.

[* - Calling it "astronomical" is grossly inadequate; we owe 3500 times more dollars than there are stars in our galaxy.]

[** - And, heartless libertarian that I am, I don't want to see elderly people dependent on government handouts dying for lack of them. Many good, productive, prudent people made informed decisions to rely on promises from our government, while said government was simultaneously confiscating the wealth they could have been using to plan for their own late-life needs. I wish we'd never gone down the mandatory-charity-at-gunpoint road, but here we are; given the choice between an incremental libertarian victory in a gradual scaling-back to a more efficient, sustainable system, or a crash into small government through bankruptcy and a sea of dead seniors, I'll take the former.]

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