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But somehow cutting it is beyond the bounds of political reality. And so as the ship fills up with water we congratulate ourselves on agreeing to pass out the thimbles.

The sheer variety of ingenious accounting wheezes used to dream up that $38.5 billion illustrates what we’re up against. I quote from National Journal:

White House officials said throughout the process that the composition of the cuts was more important than the top-line number, and that including mandatory cuts allowed that top line to grow while limiting the immediate impact of the cuts.

(My italics. Also my rolled eyeballs. And my mirthless guffaw.)

Do you know what that means? Hey, don’t bother: The “top line” is growing, while the baseline is also up. As they say in the small ads in the alternative weekly, are you a top or a base? Neither of the above? Don’t worry, I’m sure somewhere in between there’s a mid-line (the waterline?) where various “extremist” “cuts” are being enacted.

The first developed nation to get clobbered by the downturn was Iceland. It has 300,000 people. America has 300 million. If you have big government in a nation of 300,000 or even 10 million (Portugal), it’s relatively easy to figure out how much money you’re spending and on what. But, as that mythical $38.5 billion “cut” illustrates, in an ever more centralized, de-federalized nation of 300 million, meaningful oversight is all but impossible.

Meanwhile, USA Today reports that even a third of Republican voters say “the government should not try to control the costs of Medicare.”

Oh. Okay.

Where do this third of Republican voters live? Iowa? New Hampshire? And if you were a second-tier candidate trying to break out from the rest of the also-rans, mightn’t you be tempted to position yourself as their champion?

What happens if the government follows the advice of that third of Republicans and declines to “control the costs of Medicare”? The dollar dies as global currency, followed by inflation, the wiping out of your savings, widespread social unrest, huge increases in crime and violence, Mad Max on I-95 . . .

The question is whether enough Americans are willing to grow up — and fast: That’s to say, will they mature before the debt does? Forget the top line and the baseline: The bottom line is that it’s the end of the line.

– Mr. Steyn blogs at SteynOnline (www.steynonline.com).


Contents
May 2, 2011    |     Volume LXIII, No. 8

Articles
Features
Books, Arts & Manners
  • Andrew Roberts reviews Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II, by Michael Burleigh.
  • John Derbyshire reviews The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance, by Jim al-Khalili.
  • Thomas Donnelly reviews U.S. Civil-Military Relations After 9/11: Renegotiating the Civil-Military Bargain, by Mackubin Thomas Owens.
  • Anthony Paletta reviews An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War, by J. Hoberman.
  • Richard Brookhiser muses over graveyards.
Sections
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
The Bent Pin  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .