Potemkin Parliament
Washington’s governing systems are in a bad way.

Capitol Hill the morning after the budget deal, October 17, 2013.


Mark Steyn

This structural degeneration is a big part of the problem. My friends on the American right fret that if we’re not careful we’ll end up like Europe. But we’re already worse than many parts of Europe, and certainly than the non-European West — by any measure you care to use. According to the IMF, the Danish government’s net debt is 10.3 percent of GDP, Australia’s is 12.7 percent, New Zealand’s 28.8 percent, the Netherlands’ 35.5 percent, Canada’s 35.9 percent, Germany’s 56.2 percent, France’s 86.5 percent — and the United States’ 89 percent. If you take America’s total indebtedness, it averages out to three-quarters of a million dollars per family: We are on course to becoming the first nation of negative-millionaires. But let’s just stick with the federal debt, the figure for which those bipartisan schmoozers are officially responsible: In Australia, each citizen’s share of the debt is $12,000; in New Zealand, it’s $15,000 per person; in Canada and Spain, $18,000; in the United Kingdom, $28,000; in Germany and France, $38,000; Italy, $44,000. And in the United States it’s $54,000 per person — twice as much as Britain, thrice as much as Canada, closing in on five times as much as Oz. On this trajectory, America is exiting the First World.


And that’s before counting the “unfunded liabilities” that Washington keeps off the books but which add another million bucks per taxpayer. Nor does it include Obamacare, with which the geniuses of the “technocracy” have managed to spend a fortune creating the Internet version of a Brezhnev-era Soviet supermarket.

I think of recent “left-wing” governments among our allies. Up north, Jean Chrétien was a thuggish wardheeler presiding over a regime of repellent industrial-scale cronyism; Down Under, Kevin Rudd was a uniquely loathsome specimen of a human being, who communicated through a blizzard of effing asterisks and in idle moments ate his ear wax live on camera. Yet Australia was the only Western nation not to go into recession in 2008, and Canada spent the “fat” years of the Nineties paying down the national debt. Imagine that! As my old comrade Kate O’Beirne put it, “If only we could get American conservatives to be as fiscally responsible as Canadian liberals.” When I met Kevin Rudd a few years ago, he said to me, “I’m part of the pro-American Left.” “Crikey,” I replied, “America doesn’t have a pro-American Left, and in Europe they don’t even have a pro-American Right.” I didn’t know the half of it: These days, it’s not clear to me that the Republican party functions as a pro-American Right. That’s to say, Chrétien and Rudd, ghastly as they were, not only did less damage to their national finances than Obama, Reid, and Pelosi but they also did less damage than the GOP. I’m sure they dreamed the usual crazy dreams of wild-eyed lefties, but the system imposed disciplines on them that Washington doesn’t — on left or right.

That’s the problem. Either you think those numbers above are serious or you don’t. And, if you do think they’re serious and you’re a “lawmaker” (as the New York Times quaintly insists on calling our rubber-stampers), when are you going to get serious? Next month? Next year? Or shall we all sportingly agree to leave it till 2015 after the bipartisan deal on a $20 trillion debt ceiling?

 Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2013 Mark Steyn