Another week has come and gone, and our government still cannot agree on a plan for addressing America's impending financial disaster. Each day, Wall Street and Main Street draw closer to the brink while the Poobahs on the Potomac concern themselves with political angles and public relations strategies. To say we are witnessing politics as usual is an understatement. What is occurring in Washington today is politics on steroids. The fact that our representatives have allowed the country's financial situation to deteriorate to this point is a testament to how out of touch with reality they are. Even now they seem to be operating under the deluded assumption that there is a painless path out of the financial quagmire America has gotten itself into.
We are in for a rude awakening.
Truth be told, it will be impossible to undo the damage that's been done to our government, our economy, and our culture without significant sacrifice, prolonged hardship, and a radical attitude adjustment. For too long we have plowed along with the casual arrogance of a spoiled teenager – oblivious to our worsening condition, devoid of discipline, and utterly self-centered. We've suffered from a woeful inability to take the long view, preferring immediate satisfaction to delayed gratification, the fate of future generations be damned.
For us, just like for that teenager, it is inevitable that our insular universe will one day be shattered by the hard cold facts of reality. For many, that day has already come. The unemployment rate continues to hover at historic highs, many areas of the economy remain sluggish, and confidence in the U.S. dollar continues to weaken. If we don't get serious about our debt and deficit – and get serious NOW – there will be financial hell to pay. In many ways it is already too late. Hell is on the horizon and there can be no avoiding serious discomfort all the way around. At least, however, we are still at the point where we have the liberty to decide how we want to bite the bullet. Delay much longer and we run the danger of hitting the bottom so hard that recovery becomes impossible.
Dan Balz of the Washington Post gives President Obama some credit for taking both sides to task for their rigidity in the face of looming disaster. To fiscal conservatives, Obama insists that tax hikes must be part of any compromise. To liberals, he stresses the need to trim entitlement fat or run the risk of systemic program collapse. The President argues that in light of the fact that we have a divided government, some measure of compromise on taxes is critical to securing aggressive cuts in spending. There is no way, he maintains, that Senate Democrats will support a bill that does not include tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans.
The Democrats fixation with taxes notwithstanding, our current economic woes do not stem from the fact that Americans are not taxed sufficiently. We do not have a taxing problem, we have a spending problem. The root of our current economic woes is that we have been unwilling to live within our means. That is true for government and it is true for individuals. We have wanted it all and we have wanted it now – whether we could afford it or not! To get it all, we have been willing to plunge into debt, mortgaging our future and the future of our children and their children. We have been in denial that our account would one day come due. Now our financial chickens are coming home to roost.
In pushing for tax hikes, Democrats seek to undermine the need for meaningful spending cuts and the adverse political consequences that would inevitably result. If we can generate new sources of revenue, they maintain, it will not be necessary to cut government spending as dramatically as would otherwise be required. That is undoubtedly true, but spending cuts are what we need. And in the current environment, nothing will quench the prospects of a financial turnaround quicker than taking more money out of the pockets of the American people. If we are to recover our financial footing, it will come by instituting fiscal discipline, tightening our belts and curbing spending. More taxes will not yield the desired result.
The time for political posturing and half-measures is over. The cancer has metastasized. We need radiation, chemo, and surgery. Unless we are willing to pursue a radical course of treatment we can kiss the American dream of yesteryear goodbye.