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.