House Speaker John Boehner has a plan that he touts as slashing about $900 billion in government spending — shy of his original claim, only two days earlier, that cuts would amount to $1.2 trillion. It’s nonsense, of course. In Washington, unlike the rest of the known universe, a “cut” is a reduction in the rate of increase. There are never real cuts. In reality, Speaker Boehner’s plan would add $9.1 trillion to the national debt. It is a “cut” only in the sense that the Obama Democrats have rigged matters so that, if nothing changes, autopilot would add $10 trillion.
You could call this a cruel joke on a country that is already well over $14 trillion in debt — a country in which every newly born child opens his eyes as a debtor, well over $30,000 in the hole. But that would be premature, because I haven’t gotten to the punchline yet. The reason Speaker Boehner and the Republican establishment have suddenly stirred themselves to “cut” spending is their determination to keep the Ponzi scheme going. The “cuts” — less than $100 billion of which are real (the rest are consigned to the illusory “out years,” meaning they’re the responsibility of some future Congress) — are to be made in exchange for giving the government the authority to borrow another $2.5 trillion.
This will last only a few months because, at a rate of about $46,000 per second, the United States sinks $4 billion deeper in debt every day. But the $2.5 trillion stands to get President Obama through reelection without having much more attention called to his starring role in our dire straits.
To Thomas Sowell, the Boehner plan seems commendable because it would not only “spare the country a major economic disruption” but also “spare the Republicans from losing the 2012 elections by being blamed — rightly or wrongly — for the disruptions.”
Rightly or wrongly. In a nutshell, that tells us everything we need to know about the state of Obama’s opposition. Even our best minds assume that a principled stand taken for the right reasons is a loser. Standing in the midst of what is already a catastrophe, even our best minds are content to pretend that the “disruption” is something from which we can be spared.
Ask any rational person: “When a government is so addicted to reckless spending that it has run up a crushing $14.3 trillion debt that it has no plan to pay back — when it is borrowing $180 million per hour because it has taken on more obligations than it could ever hope to satisfy — would it be better to extend that government’s credit line another $2.5 trillion so it can continue heedlessly along, or to take every available opportunity to force it to alter course dramatically?” There is only one right answer to that question.
Yet, try to fashion a policy position around that right answer, and what do you find? None less than the Dr. Sowell, as fine a mind as there is, warning that we can’t do the right thing because we’ll be wrongly blamed for the consequences. None less than the eminent Charles Krauthammer spouting the lamest of GOP talking points: Because Republicans only control one-half of one-third of the government, it is constitutionally problematic for House conservatives to continue demanding deeper spending cuts, to refuse to allow the nation to be driven trillions deeper in debt, and to treat an existential threat to our country as an existential threat to our country.
The only sure thing here is that there will be consequences. With due respect to Dr. Sowell and the Republican establishment that breathlessly cites him, there is no chance of sparing the country. The major economic disruption is already happening, and it stands to get far worse. Millions are unemployed, millions more are on public assistance, at unsustainable levels. The government has sharply devalued the dollar, and is gearing up for a third round of “quantitative easing” (more money created out of thin air). Like private-fund managers, our sovereign creditors, including China, Japan, and Great Britain, are showing increasingly less interest in buying our debt, so Treasury “borrows” (prints) mostly from the Fed — whose swelling $2.7 trillion balance sheet is reportedly leveraged 55-to-1. That’s twice what Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers were leveraged when they failed. To entice real lenders, interest rates will have to be raised. That will add hundreds of billions to our debt service, wiping out the paltry “savings” the Boehner plan purports to achieve.