There is a war of ideologies being waged on the American political scene. Those on the left and right sides of the political spectrum are simply unable to come to a viable compromise concerning prominent socioeconomic issues of today. In the meantime, while the politicians in Washington fight, the director of the Congressional Budget Office—Douglas W. Elmendorf—warned in his 2011 Long-Term Budget Outlook that the United States is headed towards the biggest economic downfall since World War II. He testified:
Policymakers will need to increase revenues substantially as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), decrease spending significantly from projected levels, or adopt some combination of those two approaches to keep deficits and debts from climbing to unsustainable levels.
The CBO reports that for 2011, the federal government faced a 1.3 trillion dollar budget shortfall—the third largest to date—continuing its trend since 1969 of spending more than it takes in. Only in the years 2009 and 2010 were the deficits greater—those years produced the largest budget deficits in modern history. Elmendorf recommended early action and more sacrifices “for the benefit of younger workers and future generations.” Simply put, the U.S. economy is in BIG trouble!
America, the most prosperous nation in the world, is currently the biggest debt owner in the world. This colossal debt is reprehensible and represents instability and insolvency to our lenders. Our looming liabilities threaten to eliminate the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency, and the loss of this status would be catastrophic. It would bring an instant devaluing of our investments, drastically drive up the cost of goods and services—hyperinflation—and create a radical change in American life as we know it. All Americans would experience a significantly lower quality of life. The idea of the American dollar collapsing should cause all Americans to take pause.
Jay Richards explained that “Money has value only if trading partners believe it has value. This is why currency quickly becomes stove fuel when people stop trusting it.” Our colossal debt is not the result of insufficient tax revenues because we are taxed at a level sufficient enough to pay for the necessary functions of government. America’s problem is excessive and wasteful spending. Any average American who has lived beyond his or her means could warn the federal government of the end result of its imprudence—reduce spending or risk losing everything. At a whopping $13,561,623,030,891 of debt—according to the 2010 U.S. Treasury report—multiple years of deficit spending by the federal government has left our children to bear the burden of our irresponsibility and profligacy. The interest alone on our nearly $14 trillion dollar debt make our meager attempts at debt solvency unrealistic.
Many on the left, namely Democrats, choose to blame President George W. Bush for the economies troubles. On the right, Republicans give President Obama the brunt of the blame. Yet the administrations of both of these presidents, with their big spending and bailouts, and massive expansions of government have exacerbated the debt problem. We also owe a huge debt of thanks to Democrat President, Bill Clinton, for our more recent recession and debt fiasco. Back in 1995, the regulatory revisions made to the 1977 “Community Reinvestment Act” under the Clinton administration greatly weakened the housing market. Initially the law was enacted to ensure that banks were fairly addressing the lending and banking needs of those people in low and moderate-income neighborhoods that they accepted deposits from. Yet the Clinton administration’s 1995 revisions forced banks to lend hundreds of billions of dollars to people with little or no credit, and even people with bad credit—lending to these high risk borrowers under the guise of “the convenience and needs of the communities.”
In other words, “if banks wanted to continue to indulge from the hand of government-created money and insurance (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), then they had to prove to government agencies that they were lending these indulgences to even the un-creditworthy in their community.” The revisions to the Community Investment Act became a powerful mandate that reshaped lending practices. This act was a recipe for economic disaster that the banks initially opposed because they didn’t want to be “forced” into bad lending. Regardless, congress passed the initiative, alluring banks into lending big money to people with little or no credit.
To his credit, in 2003 President Bush attempted greater oversight of the two major government-sponsored lenders of the subprime, or risky loans—Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—yet Democratic opposition shut his measure down, accusing Bush and the Republicans of all things, racism. Shocking! We know the end of this sad story—the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis led to the collapsing of a housing bubble that brought the banking and real estate industry to their knees.
To add insult to injury, the Federal Reserve Board’s response to the mortgage crisis was grossly irresponsible and unethical. Wayne Grudem noted that “The Federal Reserve decided to pump reserves into the financial system by purchasing $1.2 trillion in assets, including $750 billion in mortgage-backed securities from companies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac . . . leading to increased inflation and thereby robbing everyone in society of the value of their dollars and their contract.” Simply put, the government rewarded reckless and irresponsible behavior by loaning hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money to bailout the big banks and the mortgage agencies, with more than half of the money going to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Economist Thomas DiLorenzo described that the current financial debacles are simply the “chickens coming home to roost after more than 30 years of progressive government interference and artificially deformed markets.” The current crisis is not a sudden or surprising occurrence, but the eventual result of salvation politics.
No one is innocent in this scandal of magnificent proportions, not even the voters. The recent political protest movement, Occupy Wall Street (OWL), self-righteously protest the “Wall Street” bankers and the “1%” of the rich. Yet these crooks are the ones who knowingly elect politicians who extort money from others to subsidize irresponsibility and greed—they vote for big government. OWL’s voted for crony capitalists who afforded political favors and preferential treatment for their friends at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Many of them voted for our current president, Obama. He handed over a trillion dollars in taxpayer funds to bailout Fannie and Freddie, and the auto-industry and banks they now protest!
These OWL’s are the same who continue to vote for increased government spending on federally funded entitlements—the biggest debt busters of all. Currently, the federal government is scrambling to fund its existing entitlements in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, retirement pensions, and welfare. The funding of future entitlements is an even greater concern. If the Federal Reserve continues the practice of pumping dollars into the system to keep up with government expenditures, Wayne Grudem asserts that “we can soon expect to see record high interest rates and/or inflation, coupled with the collapse of many entitlements.” According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, entitlement spending as a percentage of GDP has now doubled that of U.S. spending on national defense. An increase in entitlement spending and a decrease in spending on national defense, a core constitutional function of government, indicates clearly—our government’s priorities are misguided.
Stay tuned for Unsinking the Titanic-Part 2, Ethical Implications. Excerpt: “Spending of this sort is immoral; it is sure to hurt the poor and others who are dependent upon the government for their livelihood. America’s reckless entitlement spending has baited many American’s into dependency and has promised future payments that won’t be worth the paper they are printed on.”