Judge Gray: Our Grandchildren Are Bankrupt

Here is the newest column from James Gray.  It will be published on Sunday in the Daily Pilot newspaper, which is distributed to a few cities in Orange County with the Los Angeles Times, under the heading “It’s a Gray Area”. 

 

THE FUNCTIONAL LIBERTARIAN
February 21, 2013

Our Grandchildren Are Bankrupt

The biggest security threat to our country is a failed economy, and today that is a genuine threat. How so? Because the simple fact is that for every dollar the federal government now spends, it is either borrowing or printing 43 cents! Obviously no company could do that and stay in business, and no household can either without facing almost immediate bankruptcy. And neither can any country.

Anyone even partially familiar with history knows that the Roman Empire was never conquered from without, until they had overextended and collapsed from within. The same thing happened with the Ottoman Empire and, more recently, the Soviet Empire. And that is where we are headed.

With great shame I say that it is my generation that has put us into this position. Our children will have to shoulder our debt during the rest of their lives, and our grandchildren are bankrupt! The recent posturing in Washington with the “Fiscal Cliff” is only nibbling on the edges of this truly serious issue.

So what do we do? To resolve a problem, we must go through three stages. The first is to recognize we have a problem, and I think we are crossing that threshold now. The second is to explain the problem, and the third is for everyone to help share the pain. On this last issue, I am convinced that if we explain the problem truthfully, and everyone understands and believes that the pain will be shared by all, the American people will rally to deal with this threat and put our economic house in order.

That means the federal government must live within its means and seriously reduce its spending!

Actually, this can be done. We should start by conducting an audit of the entire federal government, using generally–accepted accounting principles. All public corporations are required to do this every year, and, although this has never happened in history, there is no reason for the government not to be required to do the same.

We should start with the Pentagon. In conducting this audit we certainly will not be giving away any national secrets, but we simply have the right to know how much “bang for our buck” we really are getting.

The first thing to address is whether or not our troops now fighting in various places around the world are actually protecting our security or not. If our security is not at stake, we should substantially disengage and bring the troops home. We simply cannot afford to be the world’s policeman. In that regard, it is true that there are groups of radical people like Al Qaeda that are attempting to do bad things to good people. But countries like Turkey, Russia and Saudi Arabia have fully as much or more to fear from those radicals than we do. So we should let them step forward and take leading roles, as recently has happened with the French in Mali.

Regarding Afghanistan, it is time to recognize the reality that we simply cannot afford to continue on this path. Afghanistan is made up of various tribes and tribal leaders. The area has never had a central government and doesn’t want one. The only thing that unifies the tribes in Afghanistan is when a foreign invader occupies their land, and no foreign power has ever been successful in that effort. Ask the British or, more recently, the former Soviet Union. But guess who the foreign invader is today? As the old proverb says, you can lead an Afghan to hell with kindness, but you can’t lead them to heaven by force. It is time for us to leave Afghanistan – now. Our being there is counterproductive, and we simply cannot afford it.

Otherwise, although it has never particularly been well publicized, today our government has between 900 and 1,000 military bases all around the world, and these are enormously expensive. If the bases are actually necessary for our security, let’s keep them, and even reinforce them if necessary. But we could probably close 80 percent of them without reducing our security whatsoever, and then we could bring those troops home and spend the money here in our country. The nature of war has changed and, with rapid deployment capabilities, we simply do not need such a stationed military presence all around the world. And, for example, we all know that Germany will not be attacked by Austria in our lifetimes.

As to the rest of the government bureaucracy, we should pass sunset laws, which would require each federal agency individually to come to Congress every five or so years and justify its budget – and even its very existence. This happens all of the time in the private sector, but has never been done before in the government. Then we publically can recognize successes, reduce duplications, and eliminate the unnecessary.

It is probable that many of our agencies would simply not be able to stand this scrutiny. Many of them could be reduced in size and expense without any loss of benefit to the general public, and some of them could actually be abolished. In future columns we will discuss some of these, such as the Department of Education, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Department of Commerce, the Bureau of Land Management, and others. This public audit is the best way to begin to address the crushing load of debt that is owed by funding all of these agencies, including their increasing retiree pensions and healthcare.

The general public needs to understand that even during these recent bad times, the government has continued to grow. For example, since the passage of the stimulus bill, the private sector has lost 2.55 million jobs while the federal government has gained 416,000. Without even touching entitlement programs, this is a large part of the government spending that is threatening our national security. So now is the time to address all of these issues and more. Our country’s future, and that of our grandchildren, depend upon it.

 

James P. Gray is a retired judge of the Superior Court in Orange County, California, the author of “A Voter’s Handbook: Effective Solutions to America’s Problems” (The Forum Press, 2010), and the 2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with Governor Gary Johnson for President. Judge Gray can be contacted at JimPGray@sbcglobal.net.

22 thoughts on “Judge Gray: Our Grandchildren Are Bankrupt

  1. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    “Yay” on the possiblity of completely closing the Bureau of Indian Affairs. I’d say that would be an appropriate place to start closing completely unnecessary government agencies.

    I also appreciate Judge Gray’s call to close 80 % of our military bases. It would be great if the default position would be to have zero military bases in any country, with proof being necessary to add a base in another country. I doubt that will ever happen, but it certainly would be great for a peace-lovin, non-interventionist like me.

  2. Thomas L. Knapp

    “With great shame I say that it is my generation that has put us into this position. Our children will have to shoulder our debt during the rest of their lives, and our grandchildren are bankrupt!”

    Assuming that subsequent generations will consider themselves bound to cover the hot checks of today’s politicians may be assuming too much.

  3. Eric Sundwall

    “That means the federal government must live within its means and seriously reduce its spending!”

    I meet more dysfunctional people who believe it possible to attain such a government . . .

  4. langa

    Gray appears to be one of those libertarians who believe that “government should be run like a business”, which seems to be the gist of this article.

    Unfortunately, that idea is predicated on the notion that governments and businesses are essentially the same, when in fact, the differences between the two far outweigh the similarities.

  5. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    Langa @ 6: I think many busienss principles apply to politics. Accountability, especially for how time and money is spent, is one of them.

  6. langa

    Jill @6:

    I agree with you that it would be nice if politicians and bureaucrats were held accountable for the massive amounts of time and money that they waste. Unfortunately, I don’t think that will ever happen.

    Unlike businesses, governments obtain their capital by taxing, borrowing, printing money, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, and various other types of theft. Since the money they’re spending is not their own, and since they can always steal more, there is no incentive to spend it wisely, nor to punish those who fail to spend it wisely.

    Even worse, there is often no way to even tell whether it is being spent wisely. Governments produce goods and services in arbitrary quantities, and sell them for arbitrary prices, and since they have no competition, there is no way to know whether they are producing too much or too little, charging too much or too little, etc.

    Consider the case of government roads. As long as government has a legal monopoly on road construction, how can you possibly determine whether they are building too many roads or not enough? How can you possibly determine whether they are spending too much on maintenance, or not enough? And so it is with virtually all the things government does.

  7. Robert Capozzi

    9L: Consider the case of government roads. As long as government has a legal monopoly on road construction, how can you possibly determine whether they are building too many roads or not enough?

    me: How can you possibly determine whether the market builds “too many” of anything? There’s no “objective” measure for such a thing. Even price is something that is pretty much unstable and flipping around. The buyer cannot know what a market price is, only what he/she is offered and whatever is posted. Discovering a market price has costs associated with it, too.

    It is true that for roads, government generally doesn’t charge for usage. It doesn’t quite have a monopoly on roads, though.

  8. langa

    RC @10:

    How can you possibly determine whether the market builds “too many” of anything?

    Are you serious? If the price drops, that’s a signal that supply exceeds demand, i.e. you’ve produced too much.

    Even price is something that is pretty much unstable and flipping around.

    That’s because it’s adjusting to reflect the small, continuous shifts in supply and demand that are part of the process of moving towards (but never quite reaching) equilibrium. I would have thought you learned all this in 9th grade. Geez.

  9. Thomas L. Knapp

    langa @ 11,

    “If the price drops, that’s a signal that supply exceeds demand, i.e. you’ve produced too much.”

    That’s the stupidest thing I’ve read all week. Of course, it’s just the morning of the first day of the week. But still.

  10. Thomas L. Knapp

    NewFed:

    A price reflects the juncture of what people are willing to pay for something and what people are willing to sell that thing for.

    That’s not even close to the same thing as “if the price drops, that’s a signal that supply exceeds demand, i.e. you’ve produced too much.”

    Hint: The reason a 2010 Kia cost less than a 1910 Ford is not that too many cars were produced.

  11. Seebeck

    In a pure free market, Langa *might* be correct.

    However we are not in a pure free market, and as such Knapp is correct.

  12. langa

    Knapp @14:

    Obviously, I worded my argument a little sloppily. I should have said: “If too much of a good is produced, so that supply exceeds demand, that will cause the price to drop, which will give producers an incentive to produce less of that good in the future.”

    I did not intend to imply that there are no other reasons why the price of a good might drop. Also, I am aware that we don’t live in a true free market, but I wouldn’t think that it would be necessary to point out that obvious fact to a bunch of libertarians.

    As for my statement being the stupidest thing you’ve read all week, perhaps you should reread your own comment that you posted here a little while ago, in which you claimed that Barney Frank was every bit as much of a libertarian as Ron Paul. I myself like to go back and read it from time to time, whenever I’m in need of a particularly good laugh.

  13. robert capozzi

    Langa, yes, markets seem to seek equilibrium. Sometimes, price fluctuates. Sometimes, it doesn’t. Sometimes supply or demand seem too rich relatively speaking. Sometimes buyers shift to substitutes, sometimes they do without.

    Blanket statements like yours may be good rules of thumb, even if they are not absolute truths.

    Welcome to Earth!

  14. Zapper

    The government has built far too many roads and highways – in fact, entirely the wrong infrastructure has been constructed due to using the socialist model to determine what infrastructure to build.

    Only the free market can provide the correct infrastructure and finance the infrastructure that we need – one that is clean, non-polluting, safe, efficient and paid for by investors and no taxpayer funds.

  15. Robert Capozzi

    Zapper, perhaps. How could you possibly KNOW this, as what you point to is unprecedented? “Correct” by what standard?

    Since governments have been building roads for centuries, what do you propose for Broadway, PA Ave., Wilshire Blvd., and Market St.? Tear them up and start over again? Sue the descendants of government officials who authorized the building of these roads?

  16. Robert Capozzi

    more…

    Also, I’d not realized that “infrastructure” pollutes.

    In concept, I dig the idea of non-polluting transportation, but I was unaware that any existed, other than perhaps walking and bike riding!

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