Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Cliff vs. the Abyss

At some point over the holidays, I stopped watching the news. I simply could no longer stomach the frantic reports on the "fiscal cliff," combined with fatuous commercials and the customary idol worship of news anchors who have achieved positions of importance in our culture with, apparently, no qualifications whatsoever.

Now a purported deal has been reached, within hours of the deadline, to postpone, though not to avoid, our great national falling-off. Leaving aside the fact that the president and the congress have behaved in a manner which we would not permit our children - Don't wait till the last minute to do your book report! - they have, yet again, utterly failed to address, or even to acknowledge, the real problem facing the nation; namely, that we are spending ourselves to death. The raw fact remains that every day the federal government takes in one billion dollars in revenue, and spends three.

The president, in his unrelenting socialist ideology, has demagogued the current crisis as one not of spending, but of revenue - specifically, that the rich are not paying enough in taxes. This kind of cynical class warfare may play well with the masses (most of whom pay no taxes), but it utterly ignores the truth that even if the federal government were to confiscate all of the wealth of the wealthiest Americans, doing so would pay not even two weeks' worth of the debt. But as with everything else leftist, punishing success makes the "progressives" feel good about themselves, the facts be damned. Liberalism is narcissism, pure and simple.

We are broke. To paraphrase Walter Mondale: The president won't tell you that - I just did. The national debt so far outstrips the gross national product that it will take generations of sacrifice to begin to put our fiscal house in order. The media farce about the "fiscal cliff" was meant merely to distract us from the fact that we face a fiscal abyss. The left will do anything to obfuscate in the face of this reality, and the Republicans are too tongue-tied by years of failure even to object in a coherent fashion.

Now the debt ceiling crisis looms again in sixty days, and the buffoons in congress and the amiable incompetent in the White House will burble at one another again for our entertainment, and to the further detriment of the nation.  And what will be accomplished? Nothing of any substance.

What is needed, first of all, is a national figure who will tell the truth to the American people - the truth about the crisis we face and the sacrifices we will have to make in order to fix it.  Such a one does not, and dare not, exist at the moment. Beyond that, certain structural reforms are essential. We must impose terms limits on elected federal government officials: four terms for House members, two for senators. We must cap federal spending at a fixed percentage of GDP - certainly no more than 20, I should think. We must adopt a flat income tax, again, fixed at a reasonable rate (I would say a maximum of 17%). And we must have a constitutional amendment requiring the congress to balance the federal budget. Only then, I think, can we begin even to hope for a resolution of a crisis in the history of the nation that threatens its very life.