Water is wet. The sky is blue. The United States is insolvent.
These are all true and indisputable statements, and none will change anytime soon.
Yet as The Great Debt Ceiling Debate continues, it is fascinating to watch both sides spin their rhetoric while missing the big picture entirely. The Left, led by President Obama, says the U.S. must raise its debt limit or the government will default, throwing world markets into chaos. Particularly ironic was Obama chastising the Republican debt negotiators for allowing the country to come this close to the brink of default, apparently forgetting that he and his Party have spent incomprehensible amounts of money (with no value or return-on-investment) to put us at that brink.
Many on the Right, including some Tea Parties, seem content to play the blame game, arguing that Obama and the Democrats are solely to blame for America being on the edge of the abyss, conveniently forgetting that George W. Bush (who inherited a budget surplus) and his Republican Congress more than doubled the national debt during their watch.
As the debt deadline looms, markets are finally getting jittery because for the first time, there is a sense that, just maybe, the "they’ll get it done" confidence may not apply. And no one really knows for sure how things will shake out if the government cannot pay its bills.
Relax. Of course the politicians will "get it done." They’ll do for one major reason, and it’s not an altruistic sense of doing what’s best for the country. It’s called self-preservation; they don’t want to lose re-election next year because a government default further tanks the already dismal economy.
So they will play with the numbers, cook the books, and come up with a sound-bite worthy agreement that allows both sides to save face but in reality seals America’s fate. Welcome to the Washington Two-Step.
In all likelihood, the debt ceiling will be raised somewhere north of $17 trillion (good for Obama), with promises of big "deficit reductions" and spending cuts over the next 10 years (red meat for the GOP base).
Common sense begs a question, though. In the spirit of Lightning McQueen in Cars, when he is told to "turn right to go left," why is it necessary to spend more (increasing the debt) in order to cut spending (deficit reductions). Kind of seems counterproductive.
Even though we are told things are "much more complicated" in Washington than they seem to common folk (codespeak for don’t rock the boat), here’s an idea: since we knew this day was coming for quite some time, wouldn’t it have just been easier to tighten the nation’s belt by cutting spending and reducing the exorbitant waste, and therefore not having to raise the (already unsustainable) debt level?
While that works efficiently in the private sector, it is anathema to politicians, because, for the vast majority of lawmakers, it’s not about doing the right thing for country or constituents, but themselves. That’s why Congress has historically passed workplace rules that Americans were mandated to follow, but which exempted Congressmen. And both Parties are equally complicit.
Which is why it doesn’t matter what happens with the debt ceiling. The beast has become so large that it is impossible to kill. The ballgame is over, and United States will never be the same. Most tragically, it is a quagmire of our own doing. We the people made our bed, and now we must lie in it.
Let’s be honest. There is no possibility left to fix the problem. It has become pointless to discuss the "solutions" to America’s fiscal situation, because they simply do not exist. This author included, there have been many who have outlined realistic, common sense steps that, while painful, would turn the ship around, thus avoiding the massive iceberg. But that won’t happen, because there is no political, or public, will to make them a reality. None.
Americans have been feeding at the public trough, in one form or another, for so long that everyone thinks they are "entitled" to damn near everything. And despite the imminent financial collapse caused by that "let me get mine" mentality, the people still don’t want to give up the keys to the Treasury.
There remains a naïve belief that America is too big to fail. How wrong.
Many mistakenly believe that the high standard of living enjoyed in America is a result of having the largest economy in the world. It is not. Because we have deliberately outsourced virtually our entire manufacturing base and refuse to become energy independent, the economy is built on a house of cards. And the underlying foundation? Debt.
Like their government, Americans have an unquenchable thirst for things they cannot afford. Three year-old car not new enough anymore? Buy a new one — with debt. Want a 4,000 square foot house with flat screen TV’s in every room? Take out a massive mortgage. Want to tell all your Facebook friends your exciting status of eating out every night? Buy a smart phone you can’t afford.
So while certainly not defending the actions of Congress, it is really only reflecting the will of the people.
Which is why the debt deal, like most everything in Washington, will be smoke and mirrors. They’ll increase our ability to borrow and spend more, but what they won’t tell you is that any future agreements to cut the deficit will be null and void in a year, as future Congresses will be under no obligation to follow any deficit reduction measures this legislature passes. It will continue to be Business As Usual.
The United States’ debt is now equal to our annual Gross Domestic Product, a debt so high that we wouldn’t even meet European Union standards for admission. And anytime Europe has one up on you, you’ve got problems.
The economy won’t implode in a firestorm today or tomorrow, as some predict, but will be a slow, painful burn as entitlement programs eventually run out of money, government services dry up, interest rates rise, and inflation goes through the roof.
This is no longer conjecture, but a mathematical certainty. Americans will have to reap what they have sown, and the diseased crop is quickly coming to harvest
The big question is whether Americans are ready and willing to admit their hypocrisy when it comes to spending. Just as most sports fans feigned disgust during baseball’s Steroid Era, while secretly loving every minute of the enhanced level of play, so too are many criticizing mammoth spending while deep down hoping their pet projects don’t get slashed.
Baseball finally cleaned up its act, banning steroids (in 2005), and you know what? The offensive numbers are down across the board, and it’s not nearly as exciting as it was, but people still enjoy the game as players are playing within their natural abilities.
In much the same way, Americans will, at some point, have to learn to once again live within their means and realize that entitlements aren’t free and government money is actually their own. But it may take a default on the largest debt the world has ever known for that to sink in. And with that will come necessary, but extremely painful, sacrifices that will be the building blocks of The New America.
Will we finally learn the lesson to live within our means? Hopefully, because if not, get used to living in the United States of China.
Chris Friend is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com
Readers of his column, "Freindly Fire," hail from six continents, thirty countries
and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including
The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick
Morris’ recent bestseller "Catastrophe."
Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in
Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national
television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]