Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


USA: Broke and in dangerous decline

posted by Rod Dreher

So foresees the Joint Operating Environment 2010 report released this week by the U.S. military, at least absent urgent and massive change. The JOE sees American government indebtedness, which is going to get far worse with the entitlements crisis on the near horizon, as putting our national security at serious risk. The report says that not even the most optimistic projections of economic growth can make up for the government’s revenue needs in the coming years. Say the military analysts: “Projected revenues from taxation in most plausible economic scenarios are far below that which is necessary to meet current and assumed commitments by the federal government.” What’s more, the report warns, the deepening trade deficit only makes matters worse. Excerpt:

The foregoing issues of trade imbalance and government debt have historic precedents that bode ill for future force planners. Habsburg Spain defaulted on its debt some 14 times in 150 years and was staggered by high inflation until its overseas empire collapsed. Bourbon France became so beset by debt due to its many wars and extravagances that by 1788 the contributing social stresses resulted in its overthrow by revolution. Interest ate up 44% of the British Government budget during the interwar years 1919-1939, inhibiting its ability to rearm against a resurgent Germany. Unless current trends are reversed, the U.S. will face similar challenges, anticipating an ever-growing percentage of the U.S. government budget going to pay interest on the money borrowed to finance our deficit spending.

Take a look at this country-by-country comparison on current trade balances from the CIA World Factbook. Look at who’s No. 1, then observe who’s last on the list.



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godisaheretic

posted March 17, 2010 at 11:14 pm


with declining cheap energy sources, there is little chance of long term economic growth in the USA and other OECD countries.
BAU: but until the collapse, it’s Business As Usual.
most persons are too attached to BAU to change.
after, the USA indeed will decline to a third world level,
and, as is usual in third world countries, there are little if any “entitlements”.
Social Security, like all Ponzi schemes, will be history,
as will most all pensions.
Almost all wealth set aside for the future (SS, pensions, retirement accounts etc) will be spent on current needs.
funny how the basic needs for survival take precedent over savings and investments.
but hey, again and again, have a nice day everybody!
[don't forget to appreciate driving your cars, since the days of mass produced cars are nearing the end.]
wealth faith hope love joy peace to all…



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Irenicum

posted March 17, 2010 at 11:33 pm


Why this is surprising to me is most surprising. We’re an empire in a long line of empires that have gone before us. Every empire has risen up, and every empire has fallen. Thinking ours is fundamentally different betrays a mythological thinking that assumes we’re essentially different than any other culture. The church transcends every empire. Every time any culture thinks itself the same as Christ’s Kingdom, we see idolatry. And in much of the response that has occurred, the assumptions that have been built have not taken into account that we are all fallen. Every assumption brings with it its own distorted image of who “we” are. Temptations lie across the field. Every conversation offers up both hope and peril.
Suffice it to say that I am not surprised by any of this.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 18, 2010 at 1:41 am


Combine this with China’s massive ongoing militarization, building submarines 9:1 against the US, a one child policy with selective abortion against girls leading to a projected excess of 70 million males and the latter 2/3 of this century aren’t hard to imagine.
We’ve become soft, lazy and stupid. China is lean, industrious and aggressive.
God help us.



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thehova

posted March 18, 2010 at 2:07 am


I was talking to an economist friend about this. Economists are notoriously optimistic. So take this FWIW.
Our economic pie (GDP) is a fairly fixed thing. If debt increases, it doesn’t mean the pie shrinks. It just means the government takes a larger chunk of the pie (crowding out).
What would really hurt our economy is if constraints are place on labor markets (really high taxes, constraints on mobility). But debt, itself, isn’t really a major problem (crowding out is bad…but very far from disastrous).
But even he admitted that if trends continue, a large chunk of our economic pie will go directly to medicaid and medicare. As someone in their 20′s, I’m not comfortable with that.



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mdavid

posted March 18, 2010 at 2:26 am


thehova, I was talking to an economist friend about this…
Yeah, we all know how accurate economists were in spotting the 2008 situation…:-)
Brief history of the US Empire:
1918: World’s largest creditor nation
1933: Confiscates citizen’s gold, enforces paper currency, corners the market on world gold supplies due to large gold inflows from the trade surplus
1944: By default, the world’s only reserve currency backed by gold
1973: Off gold standard completely due to rapid debt buildup
1985: World’s largest debtor nation, pushing out Mexico/Brazil for #1
2010: Debts finally pushing limits that prevent real economic growth, with no end in sight for deficit spending and more debt creation (today, graft, payoffs, and theft from future generations is labeled “stimulus”)
What I find so amazing is how naive Americans have become about the situation. We have been going into serious debt for forty years and yet one still hears idiots defending the status quo, or blaming certain pols, or Wall Street, or China, or whatever.
Because of this attitude, it’s far too late to save the system. Let it go; it’s already gone, and will crash and burn while we whistle in the dark. But it’s certainly not too late to protect oneself. It’s never been easier to be your own central bank. In fact, it’s pretty rare to have the opportunity to make money off such hubris. As in 2007, there really is no excuse for being unprepared to cash in.



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Jon

posted March 18, 2010 at 6:16 am


Re: China is lean, industrious and aggressive.
China has some huge problems of its own. A large fraction of its population consists of Third World peasants. And its one child policy is going to leave it in demographic ruin (tok many men; too many old people) in the future.



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MH

posted March 18, 2010 at 8:55 am


China may have our debt, but we have their girl children. I would say that wasn’t a good trade on their part.



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reg parker

posted March 18, 2010 at 9:14 am


i have been taking a an interest in u.s.politics for some years now. And i still do not understand how the american people,s have,nt risen up in arms over your controversial ‘Health Care’, reforms! i,m a british citizen, born and bred here, and i was alive when our own N.H.S. was started many years ago. we do have some serious problems, but we end up improving things, there are no such things as ‘death’ panels in my country, i assure you. yet, in your country, you have to pay even for a tablet if any of you become ill. And what about those millions of americans whjo have no life, or medical insurance? i read an article in 1 of your news-papers, of an old lady, found dead on one of your cities recently! and i,m thinking, how many more people in yopur country, who are in the same possition as was your poor old american citizen who died, siply because she had no health care not medi-care, medicade, or private. Does your counrty just leave people to starve and die with-out help. maybe, just maybe, your people may be better off, if they accept your presidents ‘Health Care’, reform. Give it a chace!!



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reg parker

posted March 18, 2010 at 9:17 am


i apolige for any spelling errors in my last posting to your board. yours faithfuly, mr. r. parker.



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MH

posted March 18, 2010 at 9:31 am


reg parker, it’s pretty simple. In general US elections are not competitive, massively expensive, and funded by a mechanisms which is just this side of corruption.
In the US politicians choose their voters by the way they draw district lines (Gerrymandering). The results in the vast majority of politicians are in safe seats for their party. But the party chooses who gets to run in the general election in it’s own primary. Many primaries are not open, so only party faithful get to choose. This means that only the ideological pure make it to the general. If you go against your are you’re dead in the next cycle.
But the result is political gridlock because the perfect is the enemy of the good. It also results in wild swings in the direction of US politics based upon who holds a few seats in the Senate coupled with the office of president.
The expense of campaigns is so high that most politicians owe favors to their donors, even though no “quid pro quo” can be proved. But it’s amazing how someone who takes donations from a drug company introduces legislation that favors drug companies as a hypothetical example.
The result is a system that is resistant to change which everyone knows must eventually happen.



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TTT

posted March 18, 2010 at 10:01 am


Every empire has risen up, and every empire has fallen. Thinking ours is fundamentally different betrays a mythological thinking that assumes we’re essentially different than any other culture. The church transcends every empire
Religion is no different. For millennia it would have been unthinkable for people not to worship Baal or Osiris or Jupiter, and where are they all now? Paleolithic cultures made their “Venus” figurines for probably 20 times longer than the history of any currently extant religion.



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Debunker

posted March 18, 2010 at 10:05 am


Historically, the rise and fall of empires has been inevitable. What would be amazing is if the U.S. could find some way to break that trend.



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lancelot lamar

posted March 18, 2010 at 11:28 am


What the chart tells me is that China will be the dominant world power by the end of this century.
Just as Britain was the great power in the 19th and early 20th century, and the US in the 20th and early 21st century, so China will supplant us in the 21st and 22nd centuries.
The Chinese are an intelligent, hard working, and resourceful people. We are increasingly not those things, so it is inevitable that we will decline while they ascend.



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celticdragonchick

posted March 18, 2010 at 12:56 pm


Glen Beck and the folks at Redstate will no doubt claim that the military analysts are really Acorn stooges.
Because…(get your big green foam finger out) We’re number one! We’re number one!



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the stupid Chris

posted March 18, 2010 at 1:28 pm


Combine this with China’s massive ongoing militarization,…
China’s military budget is about $122bn, the USA’s is about $712bn. Even accounting for the lower labor costs in China, the gap is not in China’s favor.
Then again, China doesn’t see itself as the cops of the world, and the USA seems to feel that we have the right and duty to intervene everywhere on earth where we don’t like what’s going on.
If you wish to make the United States fiscally responsible the answer is pretty simple: stop writing blank checks to the US military machine. On a global level the United States is responsible for more than 48% of all military spending. We could cut that to 33%, still be spending enough to dwarf all our adversaries combined, but maybe not enough to start wars half-way around the world for the hell of it.
And that would be a good thing on every single front.



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MH

posted March 18, 2010 at 1:41 pm


the stupid Chris, you’re no fun. Plus you’re soft on the commies, terrorists, criminals or somebody else I haven’t thought of yet. ;^)
Actually there’s a fair bit of truth to that. But entitlements and their growth are a big part of the problem. At some point we will have to cut the entire DoD to balance the budget.
The government should fess up and add means testing to social security and medicare, because at some point they’ll have no choice. It would be better to start early with a high limit that your don’t adjust for inflation. Once people understand this, they’ll start saving more now.
See my earlier post about the politics of gridlock about why the pragmatic will never be done.



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Lord Karth

posted March 18, 2010 at 2:07 pm


Chris @ 1:28 PM writes:
“If you wish to make the United States fiscally responsible the answer is pretty simple: stop writing blank checks to the US military machine.”
With all due respect, my friend, that’s simply not true. Entitlement spending—including Medicare/Medicaid, SocSec and Federal-employee pensions—takes up far, far more of the central government’s budget than the military does. While I agree with you that the US is militarily overextended (since when do we need 100,000 troops in Germany 65 years after Hitler died in that bunker ?), cutting military spending will not be enough.
The reason for this is simple: entitlement programs are politically popular. They have tended to expand faster (7-8 % annually) than the overall economy (2-3 %). Simple arithmetic shows that this leads to the offending programs “crowding out” other central-government spending.
In addition, there is a tendency for each Administration to introduce a new program to demonstrate its “compassion”. Obama has his “health care reform” with its trillions in subsidies to millions of new beneficiaries. Bush the Younger had the prescription-drug benefit. Clinton had a health-care bill (that died, mercifully).
It all comes down to wanting more, as a society, than we are prepared to—or in the case of Mr. Obama’s reform, capable of—paying for. Unfortunately, certain groups (are you listening, AARP-eligibles ?) are too politically powerful to be ignored on these issues. Outgo is, therefore, likely to be permanently out of balance with income.
The long-term solution to the problem is one that I do not see being passed any time soon: Eradication of the offending programs, and subsequent restriction of the franchise to those people who directly contribute to the public fisc in personally noticeable quantities.
In other words: scrap these parasitic programs, and then only let the Makers (the producing class) vote, and not the Takers (beneficiaries) or Fakers (you KNOW who they are !). This second step is necessary to prevent a recurrence of the problem.
Incidentally, MH, means-testing won’t solve the problem. It leaves the program in existence, which will give our political class incentive to re-expand the program, if only to indirectly benefit the taxpaying class.
Eradication is the only solution.
Too bad it isn’t likely to happen. Without some SERIOUS unpleasantness, that is. This is why I am not a democrat. Or a small-”r” republican, for that matter.
Oh, well. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, troops.
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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Richard Barrett

posted March 18, 2010 at 2:39 pm


The Karthian solution sounds pragmatic enough; one question, however — would “beneficiary” include those who benefit from massive tax cuts?
Richard



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MH

posted March 18, 2010 at 2:51 pm


Richard Barrett, it is unlikely any tax cuts would result as we’re in a deep financial hole.
A Karthian solution would be cruel to current retires and be politically impossible. Any party that proposed it would lose its majority in short order.
However, Lord Karth is correct that any reform would likely be subverted by politicians. A depressing proof is that the 1986 tax reform was supposed to set aside funds to pay the legacy debt. But rather than use the fund to pay down the national debt, it was spent and IOU’s were returned.
See my financial laws of thermodynamics in the “UK economy to hit bottom, dig” thread.



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Lord Karth

posted March 18, 2010 at 3:26 pm


Mr. Barrett @ 2:39 PM writes:
“The Karthian solution sounds pragmatic enough; one question, however — would “beneficiary” include those who benefit from massive tax cuts?”
Nice try, mon capitaine. You make the nearly classical mistake of
assuming that the central government is automatically entitled to a portion of one’s income, from the first dollar. I assume, on the other hand, that what a person earns from his labor is and should be primarily his to dispose of in accordance with his obligations to family, House and Line. IMO, cutting taxes is simply a matter of letting a person keep more of what he earns. It is the State that has the “burden of proof”–and a very high one to meet, let there be no mistake !—that it has the superior right to a man’s earnings.
Perhaps you work for a Child Support Collection Unit in one of the upstate NY counties ? Or the Social Security Administration ? Such assumptions are common among the leadership cadres of such organizations, which is one of the lesser reasons why I represent people being sued by such organizations. And why I take great joy in fighting such, too. }:-)
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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Lord Karth

posted March 18, 2010 at 3:35 pm


MH @ 2:51 PM writes:
“A Karthian solution would be cruel to current retires and be politically impossible. Any party that proposed it would lose its majority in short order.”
Maintaining the status quo is even more cruel to the generations having to pay for such perfidies.
As to politically impossible—-maybe now. But when the already relatively heavily-indebted Millennials and GenXers are hit with, say, a wealth tax or VAT to pay for more free medical care and subsidized leisure time for the Boomers, that may change.
We may even see a reprise of the Pepper Riots—but with the Pepperland generation as the targets.
We can start winding the entitlement programs down now, voluntarily—or we can wait until they crash involuntarily, and take the entire economy down with them. We’re already seeing the lead wave of problems with those programs now; there are a great many public employees’ unions whose pension funds are underfunded and in serious financial trouble. Just like SocSec and Medicare.
You Have Been Warned.
Your servant,
Lord Karth
P.S. Real “health care reform” begins with recognizing one basic fact: Everybody dies.



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Heritage Hills

posted March 18, 2010 at 3:44 pm


WE’RE NUMBER…uh…190…
They say civilizations last about 200 years. We’re a bit past that. Are we due for destruction? This suggests so.



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john

posted March 18, 2010 at 4:14 pm


China knows what it wants and knows how to get it and, with a basically command system, they will get it. The US government can’t even do something basic like pass a health care bill or balance the budget. Education is either awful or very expensive. (But we’re able to spend trillions in Iraq). In a hi-tech world, we have masses of creationists who espouse cutting-edge scientific beliefs from 3000 BC. People can live a fantasy life, and reality can be ignored, but it won’t go away, and now it starting to bite us.



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Richard Barrett

posted March 18, 2010 at 6:05 pm


You make the nearly classical mistake of assuming that the central government is automatically entitled to a portion of one’s income, from the first dollar.
Maybe, maybe not; let us say that I make the general assumption that the existence of a state requires some means to pay for it. That said, all I was trying to do was get you to clarify some of your definitions. That you did.
Richard



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Indy

posted March 18, 2010 at 7:42 pm


Ah, is there a simple world where people can be divided into makers and takers? I’ve yet to see it and no one reading this message board has, either. What about the new widow with four children? Was she dumb to take an old fashioned path of marrying and having so many young kids without taking a part-time job and keeping up her job skills, whatever her academic major was? The life insurance, assuming he had some, is only going to go so far. If she were to face dire economic circumstances after her husband was killed in a car crash, should she be able to benefit from programs such as Aid to Families with Dependent children until she gets on her feet again? (That husband could be any one of us reading this board, a good provider whose luck ran out too early and left a good spouse and kids behind.)
Or should the kids just suffer because Mom didn’t have the foresight to anticipate early loss of the provider and the risks of being a stay at home Mom? And didn’t see the need to keep her hand in as a “maker” and “producer” but stayed at home full time and depended on Dad to be the provider? Does that traditional choice now reduce her to a faceless taker? Most of us would argue that she and the kids may need some benefits to see them through a bad patch until she can replace the lost income by finding a job.. She expected to have a husband to be a provider for years to come and now he’s gone. Many of the unfortunate are that way through terrible luck, not through avoidance of work or desire to be fakers. There’s a role for the private sector to help them in some areas and the public sector in others. The whole “just world” idea that there are “good” men or women who work and save their money and end up all right and “bad” men and women who suck up benefits is unrealistic. There’s a whole lot of gray between that black and white.



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Jon

posted March 18, 2010 at 8:28 pm


Re: We may even see a reprise of the Pepper Riots—but with the Pepperland generation as the targets.
Here’s why not: Those beneficiaries are people’s parents and grandparents. Some few people may hate their parents (even legitimately) but most people tend not to. And for most people it would be a far more ruinous burden to have to care for their elders directly than through the common pot of money in Social Security, to which even people like me, whose parents and grandparents have shuffled off this mortal coil, must also contribute. Want to see our birth rate crash to sub-Italian levels? Get rid of Social Security. Anyone not wealthy will be so financially overwhelmed supporting their elders, and squirreling away whatever they can for their own old age, that children will become a rarity.
And I have to disagree with you on taxes. We do owe a debt for govermment and civilization. Those who object to that debt (to whom the label “Anarchist” would seem apt) should secede from the rest of us and go out and live in the wilds like the hermits of old. There really is no free lunch.



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MH

posted March 18, 2010 at 9:10 pm


It just occurred to me that another way to look at this entitlements mess is that it’s a game of iterated prisoner’s dilemma. In the long term both political parties have more to gain through cooperation to solve these long term problems. So if they jointly proposed a long term entitlements fix, everyone would win. But in the short term there’s more to be gained by being combative, blaming the other guy when they try to fix things, and kicking the problem down the road.
So at each stage of the game both parties defect and it results in the current gridlock. But in the long term this results in a loss for everyone.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted March 18, 2010 at 10:13 pm


This confirms what I’ve always suspected about Karl Rove. He was the real Chinese agent assigned to find a “Manchurian candidate.” His job was to find a sincere but clueless guy, a repeat failure in business bailed out many times by his father’s buddies, someone who would approach the presidency like a kid in a candy store, take one look at a budget surplus, and turn it into a huge deficit, lean on the Bank of China to finance two wars while cutting taxes, and never telling the taxpayers how much principal and interest they are on the hook for to our fastest growing rival… Yes, China knows what it wants, and we will be in no position to get in their way. They could bankrupt us simply be refusing to buy our next set of bonds when the old ones come due.



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the stupid Chris

posted March 18, 2010 at 10:50 pm


Karth,
I know I’m a stick in the mud here, but the truth is that “entitlements” are a theoretical problem for the future, but the DOD is a real problem in the present. In point of fact the government has been “borrowing” from money paid in SSI taxes in order to mask the fact that you can’t have the worlds’ most ginormous military and “small government” at the same time. Were it not for SSI taxes they would have had to be honest about this a decade ago, and we would not have seen tax cuts during wartime as the mantra of the anti-tax right.
What’s wrong with America isn’t our debt, it’s our militaristic selfishness. And we’ll beat up anyone who says otherwise!



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Lord Karth

posted March 18, 2010 at 11:34 pm


Jon @ 8:28 PM writes:
“Those beneficiaries are people’s parents and grandparents. Some few people may hate their parents (even legitimately) but most people tend not to.”
My mother and mother-in-law are not in danger from me, any more than your parents and in-laws are in danger from you. However, that assumes that people identify SocSec and Medicare with taking care of those same parents, AND that they do not perceive the burden as being too onerous.
If the tax burden rises high enough so that people have a difficult time taking care of their own children—and it is swiftly coming to that; one of the chief reasons why people are not having more children is the relatively high personal tax burden that has been imposed on families since 1983—that will change. Desperate people are not peaceful people.
Now note the changing demographic nature of American society, where all American subjects are “minorities”, as will be the case by perhaps 2040, and you have the makings of serious trouble. Remember this: the demographic distribution of the US is not evenly distributed across racial and ethnic lines. White people will be a majority of the elderly (the beneficiary class) by 2040, blacks and Hispanics a majority of the young (the producing class).
Then recall, if you will, that our formal education system is designed to encourage the nurturing of political and historic grievances at the expense of the common grounds of culture. Most colleges have particularist student ethnic, racial and sexual groups that agitate for special benefits of one sort or other (“Student Afro-American Societies”, “Asian Student Associations”, “Campus Women’s Leagues”). Most government-funded schools have similar particularist groups. Even textbooks are required to mention and display people of various backgrounds in specific ratios; so many blacks, so many whites, so many Asians, so many women, so many men. This not only heightens racial and sexual and ethnic sensitivities, but politicizes them as well.
We must also add to our little mix the various rules regarding “diversity”, from government “affirmative action” and “non-discrimination” laws to corporate “diversity” training, especially among the larger corporate entities.
Finally, let us remember that ever since the enactment of the so-called “civil rights laws”, this society places an increasing emphasis on membership of a particular groups as the basis for distribution of central-government-provided benefits. It is currently being masked in some areas, particularly the media, by the emphasis on respect for “diversity”, but in an economic downturn, that mask will come off.
The murderous tax rates that will need to be in place to sustain entitlements by 2030 or so will eliminate the prospect of serious economic growth. Changing demographics, particularly in provinces like California and Texas, will sharpen ethnic identification. Group-identification laws will provide incentive to agitate politically for access to this benefit program or that. Should resources to fund those programs dry up, or cease outright, it will be very, very easy for the unscrupulous or the demagogue to stir up trouble by attacking the “parasitic” elderly. A future Al Sharpton or Malcolm X will tell his supporters that after all, “they’re white ! They have oppressed us for over 400 years ! The money they stole from us goes to pay for doctors for their senile old people, while our children can’t go to school/find a job/go to college/feed their families !”
“Shall we suffer this injustice any more ? He!l, no ! We’re not going to take it any more ! GET THE BA$TARDS !! Turn them out !”
“Burn, baby, burn !!”
It happened in ’67. And that was at the height of post-WW2 prosperity.
A Depression 3.0 in 2030 may well find the parasitic elderly more easily expendable, politically speaking, than they are today. In a “democratic”, rights-based society, after all, numbers count. The problem is, sometimes they do the counting with a sword.
Under such circumstances, things may get really, really ugly. Hobbes’ “war of all against all” would be a realistic possiblity—but squared, cubed and infused with extreme violence. Inter-ethnic conflict generally is.
“And for most people it would be a far more ruinous burden to have to care for their elders directly than through the common pot of money in Social Security, to which even people like me, whose parents and grandparents have shuffled off this mortal coil, must also contribute. Want to see our birth rate crash to sub-Italian levels?”
Taxes are already doing that. Recall Elizabeth Warren’s study about bankruptcy, “The Two-Income Trap”. Professor Warren noted that the single biggest predictor for declaring bankruptcy was the presence of children in the home. Her emphasis was on relatively higher housing and higher-education costs. What she does not come out and say—although it is implicit in her data—is that taxes play a dominant role in this. Simply put, the relative tax burden on today’s producing class is much higher than it was for Boomers, Silents and GIs.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d say we’re looking at some interesting times ahead, should we fail to change the collective fiscal path of the country. “Interesting times” in the Chinese sense, that is.
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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Lord Karth

posted March 18, 2010 at 11:40 pm


Chris @ 10:50 PM writes:
“the truth is that “entitlements” are a theoretical problem for the future, but the DOD is a real problem in the present.”
SocSec, Medicare and Medicaid spending take up 45 % or so of the central-government budget. Their trust funds are full of IOUs. We borrow trillions to pay for them today.
I’d say they are a problem now, and a bigger one than DoD planners would ever dream of being.
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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Lord Karth

posted March 18, 2010 at 11:46 pm


Siarlys Jenkins, @ 10:13 PM, writes:
“Yes, China knows what it wants, and we will be in no position to get in their way. They could bankrupt us simply be refusing to buy our next set of bonds when the old ones come due.”
When a man owes the bank $ 10,000 and can’t pay, the man has a problem.
When a man owes a bank $ 10,000,000 and can’t pay, the bank has a problem.
And don’t forget, China’s got a bigger demographic problem than we do.
Their social-security crisis will be an order of magnitude worse than ours.
Talk about Big Fun a-coming….
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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Indy

posted March 19, 2010 at 6:31 am


LK, I don’t pick up much sense of your feeling like an American, like one of us. Whatever. It takes all kinds to make up a nation. But I wouldn’t project onto others, such as campus groups, a heightened sense of separateness and lack of identity with the group (Americans) as a whole.
As to your other points, you reap what you sow. I would guess you’ve voted in ways that contributed to the situation we are in. We all have to live with the way we’ve handled stewardship responsibilities, whichever way we’ve voted. For some there’s going to be guilt over being bad stewards, for others not.



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TTT

posted March 19, 2010 at 10:03 am


so-called “civil rights laws”
Wow.
I will defend the notion that a government that guarantees a basic social safety net and equal protection under the law–in other words, a civilized government, compared to which all alternatives are worthless–should offer those entitlements to all citizens, regardless of race. We had failed before the mid-’60s, and are doing a lot better now.
(And funny how your critique of “particularization” and “representative groups” didn’t include religious organizations or self-described conservatives–including the existence of this very blog.)



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Your Name

posted March 19, 2010 at 10:58 am


Lord Karth, the federal income tax rates today are lower than they were in 1983, courtesy of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 which also indexed federal income tax rates to inflation. In addiiton, federal taxes have been further reduced since 1986. Many people today fvorget these facts when they complain about the federal income tax rates.



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MH

posted March 19, 2010 at 11:24 am


My problem is not with the idea of Social Security or Medicare, but their expansion without any consideration of the legacy debt created. This is because people immediately receive the extended benefits paid nothing additional into the pool. Now the responsible action would be to always consider the legacy debt when tweaking these programs or cutting taxes. But we never see that outcome and I think these are the reasons:
In the long term the Republicans would like these programs to fail. So a runaway legacy debt will ensure that outcome at some point in the future. In the short term they can cut taxes and claim compassionatism with things like the Medicaid drug benefit.
The Democrats want the expanded programs to succeed and worry about the legacy debt. But in the short term raising taxes or restraining growth is a political loser.
But the long term outcome will create losers out of all of us. A generation of people without adequate savings coupled with a heavily indebted government is a really scary prospect. See the iterated prisoner’s dilemma above.



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MH

posted March 19, 2010 at 11:26 am


Typo in last post. It’s should be the Medicare drug benefit.



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Robin Thomas

posted March 19, 2010 at 11:50 am


Karth is right.
Ethnic warfare is ALREADY in full bloom in California.



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the stupid Chris

posted March 19, 2010 at 1:03 pm


We borrow trillions to pay for them today.
That’s just incorrect. The United States has been borrowing FROM the SSI trust fund to pay for other things, wars and tax cuts mostly. It has not borrowed one red cent to pay a penny of SSI benefits. In order to support your ideology you’ve turned reality on its head.
The honest among the GOP acknowledge that this borrowing has been going on, and claim that the real problem is that America won’t be able to pay back what it has borrowed. Those who pay closer attention to the machinations of the Norquist group see this as a purposeful plundering of SSI in order to bankrupt it and force Americans to end the program once-and-for-all.



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Jan Hus

posted March 19, 2010 at 1:27 pm


Karth is right.  I wish he wasn’t.  We’ve created a system in which the game is to continually bray about one’s rights in order to gain access to the benefits bring doled out by an ever expanding, ever more intrusive, and powerful state.  When the now vital resources of the state shrink, when the social capital once provided by local communities, families, and churches has disappeared, and when radically atomized individuals separated into their various interest groups, begin snarl at each other over the state teat…well, it’s  reasonable to assume things may get nasty.   



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the stupid Chris

posted March 19, 2010 at 1:33 pm


Ethnic warfare is ALREADY in full bloom in California.
Really? My neighbors would find this suggestion hysterically funny. Sadly a number of white people believe it to be true.
What’s really in “full bloom” here in California is an effort by the far right to turn CA into a bankrupt experiment in Social Darwinism. What they don’t seem to appreciate is that natural selection doesn’t mean white people win.



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the stupid Chris

posted March 19, 2010 at 1:41 pm


We’ve created a system in which the game is to continually bray about one’s rights in order to gain access to the benefits bring doled out by an ever expanding, ever more intrusive, and powerful state.
So that’s how the banks got bailed out! Who knew?



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Lord Karth

posted March 19, 2010 at 2:52 pm


Your Name @ 10:58 AM writes:
“[T]he federal income tax rates today are lower than they were in 1983, courtesy of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 which also indexed federal income tax rates to inflation. In addiiton, federal taxes have been further reduced since 1986. Many people today fvorget these facts when they complain about the federal income tax rates.”
The United States did very nicely for themselves prior to 1913, when there was no income tax at all. They even did well prior to WW2 when most people didn’t pay income taxes at all, and even the richest paid only about 10 % or so.
But also remember that income taxes aren’t the only central-government taxes people pay. There’s Medicare and FICA. And let’s not forget the various provincial levies, too. And the corporate taxes, which all get passed on to individual consumers. Don’t forget the costs of all the various regulations imposed by the alphabet soup of regulatory agencies, either.
Add those up, and the government extracts well over 50 % of the nation’s output. That is hardly a promising environment for economic growth, from where I sit.
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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Jan Hus

posted March 19, 2010 at 3:04 pm


“So that’s how the banks got bailed out! Who knew?”
I am not sure I understand what you mean.  



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Your Name

posted March 20, 2010 at 12:43 am


Clearly the answer is as simply as handing The Dreaded Boomers some garbanzo beans, a nice Chianti and two cyanide capsules on their 65th birthdays. No entitlements will be required.



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Jon

posted March 20, 2010 at 8:33 am


Claiming ordinary Americans are overtaxed is frankly ridiculous. The situation nowdays is that a very large fraction (not quite a majority) of people have no federal income tax liability. Yes, I know there are other taxes, but even there what most people pay is not onerous. If people’s budgets are tight taxes are not the reason, the reason is that their employers do not pay them well enough. Since the 1980s we have taken a disastrous detour in public policy whereby the people try to vote themeslves raises by voting for lower taxes. Instead they should be striking, demonstrating and so forth for better pay, as their grandparents and great-grandparents did. We do not need tea-partiers. We need Eugene Debs, Samuel Gompers and Mary “Mother Jones” Harris back. Labor has been getting royally screwed for most of my adult life while the upper crust has been partying like God on a holiday and fobbing off the lie that it’s all big bad governmment’s fault.



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Indy

posted March 20, 2010 at 1:24 pm


I agree that the problem obviously isn’t that Americans are overtaxed for what they receive. If they were, they would have been demonstrating for lower taxes AND for fewer services for the last few decades. There are a lot of misperceptions about taxes, as Bruce Bartlett pointed out recently at
http://www.forbes.com/2010/03/18/tea-party-ignorant-taxes-opinions-columnists-bruce-bartlett_print.html
Can some the misperceptions Bartlett describes be corrected? I rather doubt it, because some of them seem to be related to psychic neediness. Some people hear what they want to hear and filter out the rest. Where does that type of neediness come from? I don’t know. It seems to me that some reach for comforting explanations, including the one that there are some nefarious groups out there who suck of benefits while they themselves, the blameless and the righteous, want or take nothing from the state. We all take or benefit from state actions, every time we drive on highways or use relatively safe products (unlike some tainted ones made in China and elsewhere). To argue otherwise presents an incredibly binary view of citizenship which seems to stem from some need to make ones fellows look worse so as to make oneself look or feel better. .You see that “make me feel good” thinking in what Bartlett describes as a mere assumption that because Democrats are in power, taxes have gone up, when no such thing has happened.
It is perfectly possible to debate revenue and outlay issues and each individual’s perceived role of the public and private sector. No one of us is right, of course, we’re simply dudes talking about how things look to us as individuals. It is interesting to see, however, what some people reach for to justify their world view or philosophy. Some of it would never cut it, if the task at hand involved real salesmanship. As an independent, I sometimes read things in comboxes and think, wow, if that’s what underlies your party’s philosophy, boy, did I do the wrong thing in ever voting for your party’s candidate.



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Lord Karth

posted March 20, 2010 at 7:05 pm


Jon @ 8:33 AM writes:
“Claiming ordinary Americans are overtaxed is frankly ridiculous. The situation nowdays is that a very large fraction (not quite a majority) of people have no federal income tax liability. Yes, I know there are other taxes, but even there what most people pay is not onerous. ”
Not even the Pharaohs of Egypt taxed their subjects as much as modern welfare states tax theirs.
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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Jon

posted March 20, 2010 at 7:31 pm


Re: Not even the Pharaohs of Egypt taxed their subjects as much as modern welfare states tax theirs.
Again: We Americans are the most lightly taxed people in the developed world. (and this is the main underlying reason for our huge budget deficit).
Also, historical trivia, but the pharaohs did not tax because they couldn’t: money was not invented until ancient Egypt was in its final years.



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