A friend of mine asked a question last month that stopped me cold in my tracks. I’ve been thinking about it and the implications of the choices he posed ever since. I thought I’d share it with you today.
Imagine that you’re sitting in your doctor’s office, waiting for him to return with the results of the extensive exam you’ve just completed. You’re glad it’s over, because they poked and prodded every body part they could reach — and took numerous images of those they couldn’t.
When the doctor enters the room, you can tell by his expression that the news won’t be good. And it isn’t.
“Cancer has spread so far throughout your body that there is nothing medical science can do,” he tells you. “I’m afraid you have less than six months to live. You’d better get your affairs in order.”
You’re stunned. For a moment you can’t think of anything to say. Finally, you blurt out, “But doctor, isn’t there anything — I mean anything, no matter how experimental — we can try?”
The doctor pauses for a moment and then says, “Well, yes, there is one thing we could do. I hesitate mentioning it, because the consequences can be pretty awful. But it will save your life.”
“What is it? What is it?” you shout. By now you’re desperate.
“Not many people know about this,” he says, “but there is a revolutionary new procedure that will actually transfer the cancer out of you. You’ll be 100 percent cured. Unfortunately, the cancer will instead attack your 8-year-old grandson. I’m sorry to tell you but he’ll be dead in two months.”
Here was my friend’s question: Given that choice, what would you do?
And then he asked a second one: But isn’t that exactly what we’re doing with our national debt? Instead of you paying it, haven’t you agreed to have it transferred to your children and your children’s children?
Under the arrangements your government has made, haven’t you saddled your offspring with debts that they will never be able to pay, even if they live a dozen lifetimes?
Thank you, Addison, for such a simple and stark way of describing the choices in front of us. As I said, I’ve been thinking about the gripping way you presented this ever since you sent it to me. It’s sure a lot more powerful than the analogy I used three weeks ago in my article about raising the debt ceiling.
The dilemma my friend presented is especially appropriate now, since just a few days ago President Barack Obama sent Congress his budget for the next fiscal year. Despite all the baloney you’ve heard in the media about how the White House has slashed Federal spending, don’t believe a word of it. That is — how can I be polite about it? — a bunch of balderdash. Here are the facts.
Our President has proposed total spending for the coming year of $3.73 trillion. Of that astronomical sum, he says taxes will raise a little over half; your government will borrow the other $1.6 trillion. If Obama gets his way — or anything even close to it — it will mean that our 44th President will have saddled this country with more debt than all 43 presidents who preceded him.
I’ve heard a lot of rumors about Obama’s “secret objectives.” Most of them I dismiss as utter bunk. But if one of them is bankrupting the country that has been so good to him, he has a chance to be the first President in our history to do it.
Let me state the facts another way: The President of the United States is asking his country to let him spend more than $300 billion a month. And to borrow $120 billion of that amount so he can dole it out to his favorite causes and constituencies.
What about the $10 trillion in debt he will have racked up by the time he leaves office? He’ll pass that on to your children’s children… and if necessary, their children, too.
And yet the lead story on CNN.com about Obama’s budget was headlined “Painful cuts in budget.” Somebody’s got a lot of gall here.
Oh, to be sure, there were some proposed reductions in Obama’s budget. And for some strange reason they were all designed to either sock it to the wealthy or to outrage the poor.
Programs to help the low-income people heat their homes in the winter? Gone. Funds to help local communities fix their failing water and sewage systems? Decimated. Deductions for the interest you pay on your mortgage? Wiped out. Deductions for gifts you give your favorite charities? Cut drastically.
I can just hear Obama telling his staff, “Those blasted voters want cuts? I’ll give them cuts. What else can we do that will make them mad as h**l?” But that’s probably unfair. I’m told that the man hardly ever curses, even when his wife tells him he’s not allowed to eat something or to put out that cigarette.
Looking ahead, Obama proposes total Federal spending of $46 trillion over the next decade, with tax collections paying for $39 trillion of it. Borrowing will account for the rest, with the debt ceiling having to be raised from its present limit of $14.3 trillion to a mind-numbing $26 trillion. Imagine what the interest alone will be on that obligation?
I’ve read several commentaries that question all of the rosy assumptions behind the President’s numbers. Coming anywhere close to Obama’s budget numbers would require no inflation, no recession, no new wars, much lower unemployment and much higher tax collections. Anyone (besides the White House) want to bet on that optimistic set of events? The President’s number-crunchers are counting on a much more robust economy than seems reasonable to many people.
I say, forget about who’s right. It doesn’t matter whether the gross domestic product grows by 2.5 percent or 4.4 percent. It doesn’t matter whether inflation stays around 2 percent or more than doubles from here (which I think is almost a certainty). Because the truth is, there is no way on God’s green earth that the House of Representatives will approve that much spending. Not a chance. It ain’t gonna happen. As the kids like to say, “Put a fork in it; it’s done.”
Oh, I’ll grant you, the House might approve a higher debt ceiling next month. Even some of the young Turks from the Tea Party might succumb to all the dastardly threats of what will happen if they don’t. Debt default! Economic collapse! Utter catastrophe!
I don’t believe a word of it. But more of them read The Washington Post and The New York Times than Straight Talk. So even the best and the brightest of them can be badly misinformed.
And something hardly anyone ever mentions: A Congressman is only as staunch as his staff. And unfortunately, there just aren’t enough smart, tough, battle-hardened conservatives looking for jobs on Capitol Hill. Many groups are trying to fill the gap — one of my all-time favorites is the Leadership Institute, which has done an almost miraculous job with its training programs. But there are a lot more compromisers than Constitutionalists on the payrolls of the new House members. Sad.
Mitch McConnell, the ranking Republican in the Senate, referred to the Obama budget as “an unserious document.” That’s a pretty mealy-mouthed way of saying it, sir. Readers of this column expect to hear it a lot straighter than that. So let me be as blunt as I can.
Obama’s proposed budget is a fraud. It’s a deceit. It’s a sham.
The President and his team know there is not a chance in a trillion this monstrosity will win Congressional approval. What they’re doing is playing a high-stakes game of chicken. “C’mon, Republicans, tell us what you propose. We dare ya. No, we double-dare ya.”
We’re about to find out, ladies and gentlemen, if the people who were elected this past November stick to their promises. I hope you’ll do your part to make sure your representative won’t knuckle under to the pressure, the lies and the media smears he or she is about to face. And if he needs a backbone, lend him yours.
Until next time, keep some powder dry.