Our World Is Full of Cliffs
Punditry is in a fit. The federal government is headed for a fiscal cliff. What can we do? What should we do?
Conservatives have some clear ideas: cut the capital gains tax rate, which will increase revenue; open up all federal laws to energy production, which will also increase revenue without raising tax rates; cut entitlements and federal salaries by five percent; and promise no tax rate hikes, which will reassure our most productive citizens. These steps are not draconian; they will merely get us on the road back to realism. Look at the federal debt clock -- don't just look at the federal debt. Some states, like California and Illinois, are in a fiscal death spiral.
As bad as things are here, things are worse in Europe. Fat sow unions in Europe and politicians who herald the umpteenth iteration of a Marxist panacea make nearly all the economic news from Europe bad, and the looming default on sovereign debt by Greece, Spain, Cyprus, and other Eurozone nations means that not just governments, but banks with sovereign debt instruments as significant parts of investment portfolios will lose solvency and confidence.
But the cliff we face and the cliff that Europe faces are less economic than moral. Two decades ago, we won the Cold War. The Iron Curtain fell. America, and to a lesser degree our NATO allies, all were able to safely and substantially cut defense spending. The "Peace Dividend" ought to have allowed Europe and America to keep taxes low, run regular surpluses, and not disrupt the social welfare basket at all.
What we have lost is not our money, but our souls. Consider Obama. He has power, but how is he using that power? Like Big Brother in Orwell's 1984, Obama never stops campaigning, never stops stirring up fear, never stops blaming those who came before him. Obama and his minions seem incapable of honesty, honor, or humility. Are Republicans in Washington much better? Since Reagan, who gave us the "Peace Dividend" and proved Supply-Side Economics, have conservatives ever found anyone in Washington who is not tainted with power-lust?
If Washington is bad, Brussels is worse. The dream of "United States of Europe" has become, instead, a nightmare. Flemings and Walloons, the two nationalities in Belgium in the very nation whose capital is the headquarters of the European Union, took 535 days after its last general election to form a government -- longer than any parliamentary government in history (shades of Weimar Germany!). Self-destructive and angry Greeks dredged up Nazism when Angela Merkel visited their country to see what help Germany could provide. Separatism is on the rise in Europe, as Scottish and Catalan and Flemish and other peoples seem to think that a new and smaller nation will solve their problems, but there is no reason to think this will improve European life.
Old Europe itself is dying, as conservative authors have been telling us for years. The cynical, agnostic, socialist European is reproducing at far too slow a rate to keep his native population from surviving and the young, militant jihadists who are taking over the streets of many European cities are no more tolerant or productive than the young, militant jihadists who are forming the new, scary democracies of the Arab world.
We have no talisman against these jihadists who will, inevitably, gain nuclear weapons through Pakistan (with hideous implications for India) or Iran (with hideous implications for Israel) or, through legitimate democratic means, the government of real nuclear powers like France and Britain (with hideous implications for us).
The problem which our civilized world is facing cannot be about money: Americans and Europeans were affluent and, with only modest restraints, would still be comfortable and secure. The problem we face cannot come from some wicked military enemy: Desert Storm proved that our armed forces are incomparably more powerful than any rival, and our troops each day in Afghanistan are winning battles easily.
The scary cliffs we see today -- and our world is full of cliffs -- is that too many people blessed to be born into the wealth and protection of the Western World have stopped believing that they are blessed at all; they have stopped believing in loving God or in ordered liberty or even in such simple moral rules as "don't eat your children's seed corn." Our only hope, if we have any hope in the world today, is to forget about goodies and to embrace first goodness.