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Left Said, Right Said >> Opinion
Mobs in the streets, Molotov cocktails being thrown at policemen, numerous businesses being plundered by lawless hooligans, an inept government unwilling to make the choices necessary to prevent destruction; a state of absolute anarchy. Sound impossible? Across the Atlantic, this exact scene is playing out in the Hellenic Republic (Greece). Just a couple of weeks ago, the Acropolis — a romanticized ancient symbol of democracy — bathed not in the light of the Athenian dusk but in the flames engulfing the city around it. Yet, despite the all-too-real present decline of Old World Europe, the president’s recently released budget gives absolutely no indication that the administration intends to pull the United States back from the brink of its own, entirely foreseeable fiscal oblivion.
The facts of our debt crisis are stark — even horrifying — in nature. The United States currently possesses public debt approximately equal to our nominal GDP at a staggering $15 trillion. Over the coming decades, the government estimates that it has $90 trillion to $100 trillion in unfunded obligations. Every child born in the United States enters the world owing the government $50,000; that number grows to $135,911 when the debt is distributed equally among all current U.S. taxpayers.
To put our precarious situation in a wider context, let us briefly consider our standing compared to some of the countries currently caught up in the European debt crisis. Italy, one of the relatively strong economies of Europe, has a public debt of about 118 percent of its GDP. Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 1.7:1. As much as many of our politicians, save people like Paul Ryan, may pretend that the U.S. is rolling along just fine, the facts of Europe demonstrate just how close we are to falling into the same bottomless chasm as places like Greece and Ireland.
Yet, the president’s recently released budget give no apparent indication that the administration cares about these startling figures. President Obama’s tenure has already witnessed an increase in the public debt greater than the cumulative contributions to the debt of all 43 of his predecessors (few ran surpluses — kudos President Clinton), with all three of his budgets running deficits of over a trillion dollars. This new budget, unfortunately, is no different. Acting in the name of “strategic key investments,” the president intends to run another crushing trillion-dollar deficit. The most ironic part? He intends to “pay” for these “strategic investments” using “savings” derived from our military withdrawals in the Middle East — savings he and most other liberals have long maintained would be used to decrease the deficit, not pay for new programs. To add insult to injury, these new programs (such as a 150 percent increase in infrastructure spending and increases in federal funding of community colleges) smack of yet another stimulus bill that will in fact do little to grow the economy.
By introducing yet another trillion-dollar-deficit budget, replete with yet more ineffective stimulus spending and job killing tax increases, the president continues to lead us down the road to fiscal oblivion at the exact time we are sorely in need of Paulite-level fiscal responsibility. It is imperative that we take strong and purposeful action to preserve our liberties and force our government to live within its means. Otherwise, we will be telling our children how the United States and the rest of the free world burned and fell as mightily as Rome.
— Daily Nexus conservative columnist Jeffrey Robin
In Response, Left Said:
The claim that Obama has increased federal debt as much as or more than every previous president combined is a bald-faced lie. Even if you wrongly suggest that Obama was responsible for all debt incurred in fiscal year 2009 — which started over a month before his election and operated on a budget designed by the Bush administration — the numbers don’t add up. Considering fiscal year 2010 was the first year an Obama budget took effect, the rise in debt from $7.506 trillion (then) to $10.393 trillion (December 2011) is far less than the initial figure. My counterpart even admits that Clinton ran a surplus, but that we’re now deeply back into deficit. That could have something to do with the eight years between Clinton and Obama. If we ended the wars (which is luckily underway) and ended the Bush tax cuts (which the Republicans are fighting tooth and nail), we could end the deficit. I know people hate it when I blame everything on Bush, but when you’re placing blame on Obama for causing problems that are Bush’s fault, it’s hard not to.
My counterpart openly says one of his biggest problems with the budget is its spending on higher education and infrastructure. Not only is he suggesting that we not create jobs by building and maintaining roads and schools, he’s essentially stating that all of us should pay higher tuition — and that the institutions many of our much-loved transfer students came from are a waste of resources. I agree we should tackle deficit reduction in the long term, but the methods undertaken to reduce federal debt should not be shouldered by students and working families.