Every Bill Eventually Comes Due

I’m occasionally accused of being too gloomy when it comes to America’s future.  That certainly isn’t my intention.  There is some melodrama to my personality, but those who know me well recognize that I’m an optimist at heart.  It was my optimism that blinded me to the strength of the Obama campaign and its victory over Mitt Romney.

Perhaps you’ve been out to a nice dinner lately.  Is it a doomsday prophecy to know that at the end of the meal a bill will be presented?  If you spend on your credit card, is it pessimism or gloom to realize that you must have a plan for paying that charge when the statement comes in the mail?  Of course not.  These are simple economic realities.

I spent years in Catholic seminaries.  From 1983-1986 I studied in Rome, Italy, and resided at the preparatory residence established there by the American bishops of the Catholic Church. It is known as the North American College.  At the time there was a terrible economic situation in Ethiopia.  Because of historic colonial ties, many Ethiopians were immigrating to Italy in search of a better way of life.  Some of my seminary brothers were engaged in ministries to assist them.

A few of those brothers who were particularly justice-minded proposed that some empty rooms in our residence be turned over to a few of the refugees.  They developed a plan for the accommodation of our proposed guests, including their dining and personal-care needs, how they would travel to and from work, and how they would interact with the seminary community.

Then the seminary rector called a mandatory meeting of the entire student body.  I’ll never forget his speech to us.  As we sat there with wide eyes and laudable goals, he began by thanking the community for its commitment to justice.  He recognized the planning committee for its work and he expressed support for their goals of helping the immigrants in need.

Then he asked a simple but demanding question, one that we must also ask.  For affect, he used the native language of the Italian people.  Firmly, but with a gentle tone, he looked at us from his rector’s podium and he asked:  Chi paga?

Whether you put it in Italian or English, it’s just two words:  Chi paga?  Who pays?

The wise among the student body got it.  In our zeal to reach out to those in need, we idealistic seminarians were putting all the burden on the institution.  We expected it to provide free rooms to the needy, and free board as well.  We were talking about spending money belonging to someone else rather than taking on responsibility ourselves.

Another example comes to mind from my childhood.  My brother had friends who liked to work on motors:  cars, lawnmowers, or whatever.  He was always lending my father’s tools to his friends.  That wasn’t a problem except for one thing.  He usually never secured the return of the items that had been lent!  On many a day off, Dad went to the tool box to find that a needed item for a household chore was missing.  “Where is my crescent wrench?” he would ask.  My brother would sheepishly admit that he had lent it to a friend some time back and that it had never been returned.

How easy it is to be careless with the things that we don’t pay for.  How quick we are to demand that the money and efforts of others be spent as we see fit, or worse, that they be spent on us.

This is exactly where we Americans find ourselves at this moment in our national history. Slightly more than half the voters on Tuesday chose to ignore the fiscal insanity of our federal leadership–including more than $16 Trillion of growing debt and the failure to even pass a budget.  Our credit rating has suffered and been cut repeatedly (even as recently as September), yet the debt continues to sore and most of the media give President Obama a pass on the matter.  It is widely expected that in Obama’s second term the debt will reach at least $20 Trillion, and White House data appears to support that expectation.

Half the country has set the course for the other half.  It won’t be a pleasant journey.

Two things seem self-evident.

1.  The trillions of tax dollars spent by Obama and his fellow Democrats were an investment in his re-election.  Millions of Americans voted on Tuesday to keep the benefits coming.  Though I find their thinking to be short-sighted and economically dangerous, I understand why they did it.  49% of us pay no federal income tax.  47% of us live in a household where someone is receiving a government benefit.  The presidential election should have been about long-term economic recovery and the salvaging of American prestige on the international scene.  Instead, it was a vote to keep the presents coming from the Democrats.  The major problem with this particular holiday story is that instead of elves who make toys, Obama Claus pays for his gifts on the backs of the people and businesses that could rescue our economy if given a chance.  They won’t get that chance for four more years.  I see no reason that Obama won’t continue to retard economic expansion with his political extortion.  He will do this by securing the cooperation of the Democrats of the Senate and by making the Republican-controlled House of Representatives look selfish.

2.  Despite the talk of pending disaster when we go over a “fiscal cliff” on January 1st (if the “Bush tax cuts” expire), the fact is that we went over the cliff three days ago.  Ron Paul agrees.  Remember the old saying:  it’s not the fall that kills you–it’s the sudden stop.  We have been racing toward the cliff’s edge for years.  It began under George W. Bush and it has accelerated to frightening proportions in Obama’s first term.  Voting to continue  that dangerous momentum this week, a slim majority of Americans tipped the balance as we sat on the precipice.  We went over the edge and we’re now engaged in a rapid descent.  When we hit rock bottom you won’t have to ask if this is the time or not.  You’ll know.

One way or the other, the bill must always be paid.  Just because government is large, convoluted, and serpentine doesn’t mean that it’s exempt from the laws of economics.  Money today is nothing more than an idea propped upon a hope.  It is created daily by the Federal Reserve and the banks of the nation.  It has more to do with electronic data than with anything of concrete value.

America is broke.  Like people who are broke, that doesn’t mean we can’t get our hands on money.  We can always fool someone into giving us credit.  At this point Americans are just fooling themselves.  Even the wisest spendthrift eventually gets caught.  His credit is cut off and his debt must be addressed.

We don’t have to slam the poor.  We don’t have to abandon a strong military.  We simply have to get serious about fiscal responsibility.  In Washington, they don’t want to do that because it will anger somebody and cost them votes.  This move has been in the political play book a long time.  A slim majority of us fell for it again on Tuesday.

When the bill comes due and the credit card is cut in half, Americans will be forced into fiscal maturity.  It will hurt a great deal more at that time then it would have hurt now.

Even the strongest of pack animals cannot bear all the weight of the world.  Our economy cannot sustain the increased strain being placed upon it by redistribution schemes and taxes.  The pony’s back will eventually break.  It’s no wonder that so many have suggested such a goal from the beginning of the Obama administration.  This idea has a name.  It’s called the Cloward-Piven Strategy and it was first proposed in the 1960s by two ultra-liberal academics.  The idea is to overwhelm the welfare system until it collapses.  Afterward, a system of guaranteed income will be set in its place.  In other words, the socialism that failed in the USSR and Eastern Europe.

While addressing his campaign staff on Wednesday, Obama wept.  They may be tears of joy as well as disbelief.  Who could have imagined that any single president could do so much damage and still be re-elected to a second term?

Obama’s dream of the “fundamental transformation of America” is only half finished.  Even he is probably shocked that he gets four more years to bring it to completion.

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9 thoughts on “Every Bill Eventually Comes Due

  1. John,

    Very well stated. Like you, I will continue my opposition to these damaging policies, even though I know that we are doomed to hit rock bottom no matter what folks like you and I do. As you’ve heard me say many times, I believe a “reset” will happen, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. All we can do, in my opinion, is try to prepare for the inevitable so that we can not be a blessing to our own family AND a blessing to our neighbors who continue to live with their heads in the sand. As you stated, the bill will come due. And, in my opinion, it’s coming due sooner rather than later.

  2. “Slightly more than half the voters on Tuesday chose to ignore the fiscal insanity of our federal leadership”. Really? You have seen inside the heads of more than half of the voters and determined that they *ignored* fiscal issues rather than thinking (a) that they were outweighed by other issues; or (b) that Obama’s fiscal policies made more sense to them than Romney’s did; or (c) that the fiscal issues are different than you understand them to be; or (d) that…. .

    In the spirit of dialogue, I encourage you to be more careful in your language.

    In that vein, you seem to think that spending money on social programs amounts to an illicit taking of others’ hard-earned money. It’s hardly clear that this is true. First, I continually question how “hard-earned” the money of the wealthy is. But apart from that issue, taxation itself, as you yourself freely admit, is not necessarily an illicit taking of money. Taxes are part of an obligation that one has to society. We can argue about the extent of that obligation, naturally, but for those who think that society, as a whole, has an obligation to the less fortunate, and that (in some cases) that obligation is best discharged through government, taxes that pay for such obligations are not illicit but, rather, obligatory!

    There’s still a further problem with your reasoning, and it’s one that you yourself should have seen, given the analogies you use. You write: “When the bill comes due and the credit card is cut in half, Americans will be forced into fiscal maturity.” But credit card bills are always due every month. There’s never a point at which the company demands that you pay off the balance in full (that’s the very point of a credit card!). Likewise, there will never be a time at which all of the government’s creditors demand repayment in full. Except that there’s this difference: I suppose that, under some circumstances, a company can cut off your credit and demand repayment. (I don’t know what those are.) That’s because the company sets the credit terms to which you agree. With the federal debt, it’s the other-way-round. The government sets the terms on the bonds it issues. No one has any standing to demand that bonds be paid off in full ahead of time.

    So, while I agree there are issues, we are not in a doomsday scenario, as you would have it. Which is good news: you should be an optimist! 🙂

    • As always, Chris, thanks for your comments. Your admonition to choose my language carefully is well taken. In this case, though, I’m not convinced that I chose the wrong word. “Ignore,” according to the good folks at http://www.etymonline.com, means to “be unaware of, to disregard,” or “to pay not attention to” a matter. Whatever their reasons for doing so (and you suggest several possibilities), I believe my choice of the word “ignore” is still valid.

      To wit, whatever else may have influenced voters, a tiny majority has now set the future for the entire country. If continued irresponsible spending (as we have now) continues, this is a disastrous course to be on. If a constitutionalist were elected (Romney is not one) by a tiny majority, at least they would have the comfort of knowing that government would be staying out of their way and not hampering them as the Obama/Senate Democrat government is doing to those who make the country’s economy run. No matter how much we take from someone to give to someone else (chosen individuals or chosen groups), that can’t continue to be viable in poor economic times as we are in now.

      My point was not to beat up on aid to the poor. My point was to criticize the attitude that has prevailed in this election: half of us think it is proper and useful for government to take from some to give to others on a massive scale; half of us think that central planning by government and picking economic winners and losers by government officials is the road to a better society and stronger economy. That’s just false. No matter how popular a false notion is, it remains false.

      On this regard, your Keynesianism is showing and my Austrianism is showing.

      I have never argued against legitimate taxation. But taxation should be driven by the needs of taxation, not the needs of politicians to punish some and reward others in return for votes.

      I have never argued that America should leave its poor behind. In fact, in this post I specifically state that we don’t have to “slam” the poor to fix our economic problems.

      What I criticize now–and feel obligated to continue to criticize–is the excessive power and scope of our elected officials who are using taxation and welfare as wedges to divide us while securing their own prestige and elite status.

      Regarding America’s debt, I recognize the validity of your argument. But there is more to be taken into account. As with a credit-card company that eventually closes down the credit of a “bad-risk” customer, there can come a time in global politics when the world no longer trusts America’s credit or its dollar.

      We are seeing signs of this as a definite possibility. Our credit has been downgraded and new treaties around the globe are being signed that will allow other nations to reject the so-called “petrodollar” (the requirement that global oil transactions be paid in American dollars). If you’d like more on this issue, I recommend this link:
      http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/iran_and_the_petrodollar_threat_to_u.s._empire

      In short, our economic misbehavior at home–the buying of votes by politicians with unwise laws aimed at “helping” certain segments of our society–has led to global insecurity. The world recognizes that America has done this and now the world is starting to make changes to escape future such possibilities. It will, in the long run, damage our economic standing. It could even do much worse than that.

    • I continually question whether someone’s possessions are “hard earned” or not should be any of my, or BHO’s businesses. Who are we to deem the merits of others fortunes? We should practice charity ourselves, because asking Uncle Sam to feed the poor with someone else’s money isn’t charitable at all, it’s theft!

  3. John, thanks for your kind reply. Here I just want to make one minor, hopefully uncontroversial point. I may not even be disagreeing with you. (ha!) You write:

    “half of us think it is proper and useful for government to take from some to give to others on a massive scale; half of us think that central planning by government and picking economic winners and losers by government officials is the road to a better society and stronger economy…”

    I don’t think that’s necessarily correct. Remember, the fact that someone voted for Obama ( or the fact that someone votes for anyone in particular) does not mean that the person thereby endorses all of the candidates policies. For example, I know that many pro-life people voted for Obama. Does this mean that suddenly they are in favor of legalized abortion? Of course not. It likely means that they thought Obama was the best of a set of bad choices.

    So, I don’t think you can conclude that half the country thinks that central planning by the government will lead to stronger economy. In fact, I suspect that only a small minority holds that view. But that is a debate that is going to have to await another day!

    • Chris, I believe you are correct. But whether they believe it or not, I think those voters have made it a certainty that it will happen for four more years! Thanks for allowing me to clarify.

  4. By the same token, how many people did I hear say, “I’m voting against Obama. I really have reservation about Romney but we can’t stand four more years of Obama.” So even the percent given to Romney does not offer a mandate for his governmental views.

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