I was watching TV the other day, and once again a talking head came on to tout what a great time this is to borrow money since interest rates are so low.
Our political representatives hear that same siren song, and that’s what they do, Democrat or Republican. The great
thing about borrowing, as they have learned, is that the pain of repayment is not felt by the people reaping the benefit, whether it is building a new football stadium or the people driving on smoother roads.
When the bill comes due, the stadium roof will be leaking and the potholes will be back.
And who gets the bill? Our children and grandchildren.
If you want to be enlightened — and then thoroughly depressed — I’d suggest reading “Disinherited: How Washington is Betraying America’s Young.” The book by Diane Furchgott-Roth and Jared Meyer explains what every young person should know — that grandpa and grandma are putting you so far in debt, you’ll never get out.
Few young people know that the United States is $18 trillion in debt. Even fewer can conceive what $18 trillion means to them.
Like an infomercial, “Disinherited” keeps saying, “But wait, there’s more.”
If all of the future spending obligations to which Congress has obligated us are totaled, the gap between what will have to be paid and how much tax will be collected without changing anything is $205 trillion. Each of the 325 million Americans alive today will need to pay $630,769 to cover that. A family of four will need $2.5 million.
Nobody can conceive an amount that large. “Disinherited” tries.
That amounts to about 12 times the gross domestic product (GDP), which is the value of all the goods and services Americans produce in a year.
How large is 12 times GDP? If the government confiscated all of the earnings of all Americans for 12 years, allowing nothing to be held back for food, shelter, clothing or transportation, everyone would be dead except for those lucky enough to be drawing a government check.
This is what you get when you give every senior citizen $220,000 in Medicare benefits without taxing anybody for it.
This is what you get when you go to war for 16 years straight without expecting anyone except our armed forces personnel to sacrifice anything.
This is what you get when you tell people they paid into Social Security all their life, so they deserve a check, even though what they paid was given to generations long past, and even though the amount they paid in wouldn’t last them more than a few years because those same politicians devalued the currency from when those seniors paid.
So confiscate all the earnings for 12 years, and even the recipients of this “generosity,” wouldn’t think it was a good deal, because there would be no one left to produce the goods and services that the money from their check would buy.
Some people say, we will just have to raise taxes.
Oh really? The book suggests that one alternative would be to double all personal income tax rates, so the top rate would be 80 percent and the bottom rate 20 percent. This would raise an additional $493 billion in taxes annually — about half of what was needed to cover deficits the past 10 years — and that increase in taxes would cost the economy more than 3 million jobs.
But wait, there’s more. The states have rung up their own deficits, including $5 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities.
How is that possible when 41 states, including Minnesota, require the legislature to pass a balanced budget? Simple. Make it apply only to the general fund, then create other funds that can take on debt. That’s why Minnesota has doubled its debt just since Gov. Dayton has taken office.
The authors write, “The American body politic has acquired deficit-attention disorder.”
That’s because if they actually tried to fix the problem, the economy would sag, and they would be voted out by angry voters.
So instead, the politicians shuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic of debt. They stage mock battles over food stamps or military spending. But they don’t do anything to stop the hemorrhaging because they know that political careers will be lost.
I’m of an age when I may or may not be around to see it, but eventually the music will suddenly stop, the nose of the Titanic will rear up, and all of the scams will disappear in an ocean of red ink. Whoever is president at the time — and make no mistake, Donald Trump is a likely candidate because he is insulting the political establishment — will join Herbert Hoover, Adolf Hitler and others in the halls of political infamy.
Grandma and grandpa should be grateful that only 41 percent of those ages 18-24 vote, while 72 percent of senior citizens turn out. If the grandkids knew what we are doing to them, we’d be out in the street, along with a host of politicians.
Tom West is the editor and general manager of the Record. Reach him at (320) 616-1932 or by e-mail at [email protected]