After reading the David Brooks New York Times column that lauded the courage and guts of GOP Rep. Paul Ryan to actually put together an “adult” congressional budget, one that purportedly will save trillions, I had to wonder if we all need a remedial math class.
Because the budgets that float around Washington D.C. seem to all contain not just their own economic theories but their very own mathematical systems, complete with floating polynomials and magic integers that have the power to act zeros and hold numerical value at the same time.
Every op-ed I read lately seems to be focused like a laser on our so-called entitlements, although the Social Security program, which comprises half of the category, has not only served as the nation’s piggybank when we were short on ready cash, but is one of the simplest, most popular government programs. The linchpin of just about every credible retirement plan in the country, it has its own dedicated tax that pays 100% of its current obligations. Moreover, with only the barest of increases in the tax and the slightest of decreases in benefits to the beneficiaries, it is a program that can fund its projected future obligations for decades upon decades.
So what are we missing? How come no one is asking the only questions that matter if you really care about the national debt and our annual deficit? Questions like:
How much of our identity as Americans is tied up in our military superiority?
How much of our national identity is derived from our ability to police the rest of the world?
What percentage of our national character depends on our ability to fire million dollar missiles at people in tents when are irritated or annoyed or inconvenienced by their behavior?
These aren’t questions that have anything to do with national security, which can be had for a whole lot less than we currently spend on our military and its toys. These are questions that ask us to take a look in the mirror and be honest with ourselves. It is the answer to these questions that really determine whether or not we want a balanced budget and a national debt small enough to manage.
But in order to answer questions like these, we would have to level with the American people, and tell them, if we were really serious about paying down our national debt, that in addition to the schools that would close, the soldiers who would be furloughed, and the roads and bridges that would go without any maintenance at all, we would have to welcome all of our parents, our infirm and nursing home bound grandparents, and practically all wards of the state into our homes, regenerating practically overnight the multigenerational household.
We would have to explain to the populace why our mortality rate would skyrocket. Why the new products that depend on basic R&D funding from the government to even see the light of day would start tailing off.
And all of this would have to happen after a massive tax increase to every type of taxpayer in the country, whether they were an individual or a corporation.
Instead, we get bogus “Plans for Prosperity” that shrink funding for some programs instead of all of them and refuse to recognize the futility of filling a budget gap as large as the one we have without any increase in government revenues from increased taxes.
Because if the military is sacrosanct, and anything more than the barest minimum of income taxes for individuals and corporations are blasphemy, then you have already surrendered any opportunity you could possibly have to actually apply any money from the national treasury against the trillions of dollars of debt we have accumulated since the 70’s.