January 22, 2010
The Real State of the Union, 2010
It is State of the Union time again. Like every president before him, Barack Obama will declare that the state of our union is fundamentally sound, but it needs some tuning up. (In his case, a tune-up costs about $2 trillion and nine czars.) But in my opinion, the state of our union is, to use the word of the day, "unsustainable." That means "dying" in everyday language.
Almost a year ago, I wrote of the "real" state of our union.
We have less than 10 years to get our mess straightened out. In that time we need to do something drastic with health care, meaning getting its costs under control. We also need to keep a lid on discretionary spending and even cut it. Social Security payroll taxes might need to be raised a bit by 2020, or benefits cut.In short, to avoid financial catastrophes such as government default and bankruptcy that would otherwise come in the 2020-2030 time-frame if not before, President Obama must make some bold moves. And in the opposite direction of his fan base.
Since I wrote that, the Congressional Budget Office and the General Accounting Office have validated my basic budget analysis.
I summarized three possible paths Obama might take. After a year, we now know that he took the worst path: "More spending and taxing, as well as massive public works projects, single-payer health care, the 'Employee Free Choice' act, global warming hysteria, weakened defense, the return of the 'Fairness Doctrine', etc."
In short, President Obama is pushing the agenda of the Communist Party. That is not just me talking, but Sam Webb, National Chair of the Communist Party USA.
The new conditions of struggle are possible only -- and I want to emphasize only -- because we elected President Obama and a Congress with pronounced progressive and center currents.
So President Obama is not only not our savior, but he is getting us to hell even faster.
Below is what I consider the state of our union today. (With liberal use of embedded links to back up my claims.)
We are already heavily in debt, at levels unprecedented in peacetime and soon to be unprecedented even for wartime. Yet all policies enacted or proposed by our current government are putting us deeper into debt. Obama and the Democrats are doing absolutely everything wrong concerning government spending and handling entitlements.
Entitlements are eating us up. Discretionary federal spending (including defense) is already lower (as percent of total spending and percent of GDP) than it was a few years ago. The Government Accounting Office projects that entitlements and interest on the debt will consume 100% of federal revenues in about a decade. Yet rather than cutting entitlements, we are adding to them.
How can "unsustainable" debt be cured? One way: by not paying it off. But there are multiple ways to not pay it off.
- The value of money could be inflated away. Creditors would be "paid back," but in dollars worth less.
- "Old age" benefits could be cut, one way or another, just as the baby boom reaches old age. Social Security, Medicare, and pensions are all in trouble. Investments of all kinds (stock market, bonds, real estate) could lose value.
- Our government could try "fixes" like tax increases that would only make economic growth suffer -- a jobless recovery at best, a double-dip recession or depression at worst.
I expect all of the above in varying doses.
The U.S. has been eating its seed corn. We are the country that invented the bomb, put man on the moon, and started the Green Revolution in agriculture, which came close to wiping out world hunger. The bomb was developed sixty-five years ago. Man first walked on the moon over forty years ago. And the Green Revolution happened in between.
Since then, "science" has entered one cul-de-sac after another: string theory, dark matter and energy, climate change, you-name-it. Big pharma and modern medicine, two of the few successes in science in recent years and responsible for my daughter being alive today, are under constant attack by politicians and are on the verge of being dismantled by disincentive.
We are now a hollow country: reduced manufacturing, outsourcing, generally doing each other's laundry. People employed in construction, natural resources, and mining combined make up just 5% of our workforce. People who actually produce goods make up just 14%. On the other hand, government workers are 17% of our workforce, and better paid for it.
Our populace and our education institutions have been dumbed down. We have fewer engineers and scientists and more people writing memos to each other. (We're lucky if the foreign students we educate do not use their new knowledge to kill us. Al-Qaeda seems to have an inordinate amount of western-educated members and sympathizers.)
In short, what does the U.S. have to sell that anyone would want to buy? Even the movie industry is steadily moving out of the U.S. and into Canada, India, and even Romania.
I expect the U.S. to lose its lead role. It is already "just another European country" by many measures. I said that almost two years ago, and Mark Steyn quickly agreed with me. But it is so obvious now that even college professors are starting to agree with me. As the recognition sinks in, it will hurt us more. Even though Europe has its own debt problems, I think the U.S. will suffer more than Europe. We have farther to fall.
I'm not sure if Republican wins will fix things, even if we get genuine conservatives in office, because the necessary actions are also unpopular. We need to cut entitlements -- even get the federal government out of Medicare/Medicaid. If Republicans try that, they will be tossed out. In the current debate, it was Republicans saying "don't cut my Medicare."
Short of Republicans stopping themselves, Democrats will halt everything in the Senate anyway. Either party now needs sixty solid votes in the Senate to make anything happen.
Our politics are polarized and nonsensical because our voters are. The "moderate" middle wants the impossible: all gain, no pain, and no sense of reality. What we have is incoherence -- neither a free market nor a competently managed public sector.
All of the above is about economics and the budget. On national defense, we are also hollow -- not because our military is weak or incompetent, but because our civilian leaders are, and because the country at large now demands immaculate wars. These are wars without ambiguity in purpose or execution, wars in which no one dies and every enemy is greeted with Miranda rights, wars that don't cost anything, wars that end before Christmas-shopping season.
The trouble is that no other country is ready to replace us. When we fall, it will be like Rome falling. The new age will be a Dark Age, with constant warfare among smaller nations and tribes. And now more of us have nukes.
I know...that state of the union is way too gloomy. But our hope does not lie with this or that policy. It lies in a population that genuinely believes in itself rather than the government Wizard of Oz. Show me evidence that a majority of our population believes in itself, and I'll write a whole different State of the Union.
Randall Hoven can be contacted at email@example.com or via his web site, randallhoven.com.