Downness and the Debt Ceiling

Yesterday, I gave some thought to shifts in government policy and in American culture that may ultimately be behind our economy’s failure to recover satisfactorily. Much like the productive people who have been leaving Rhode Island because they’ve assessed that the opposition to needed reforms is simply too powerful, many Americans know what must be done but expect it to be near impossible to make it so. In that respect, the debt ceiling was like a small-scale prod at enemy lines to test the strength of its forces.
The standard line among Democrats, and even many Republicans, is that cutting government spending would just be too hard. All of the government’s “promises” are sacrosanct — from Medicare to welfare programs to public school funding — and there simply isn’t enough waste and fraud to be squeezed out of the system to cover the deficits (even if officials and bureaucrats were inclined to do the squeezing).
To be fair, they’ve got a point. A look at Kevin Williamson’s prescription for government spending cuts shows just how many powerful groups would have to be bucked. That’s certain to be a problem with democracy once elected officials realize that they can stitch together bought constituencies. Everybody’s going to want their own ox to be the last one gored.
But cutting has to be done. Our government has been operating with a policy-first approach — assuming that the resources will be found to do whatever politicians and their backers think is right. Rhode Island is dying proof of the silent sunset clause in such an approach. If the federal government couldn’t even be forced to abide by its already-astronomical borrowing limits — if it couldn’t be forced to make honest-to-goodness, non-fudged and actual cuts to projected spending — then what hope is there?
Very little. If we collectively find it to be impossible to cut spending and begin mitigating our reliance on Big Government, it might be beyond impossible to change the cultural problems that underlie our approach to civics. Another bubble may come along and allow us another decade of ignoring the disease, as the Internet and housing bubbles did, but we’d only be worse off for it, in the long run.
As it happens, Mr. Williamson commented, yesterday, to one of my recent posts, saying that he’s “given up writing about the deterioration of our culture,” because there’s “not much left to say.” In a final analysis, the deterioration of our culture is the only thing to say. Repeating the common sense analysis of our errors is the only way to make people (gradually, culturally, almost subconsciously) shift their behavior and civic practices. Even if the necessary changes are beyond our society’s abilities, right now, ensuring suffering on a massive scale and initiating the risk that our weakness might inspire global-scene-changing actions on the part of other peoples, the right path will be easier to find when we’ve come back around to it if it is well described.

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Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
12 years ago

I glanced over, but did not examine, the Economist this morning. The headlines make it clear that economic power is shifting away from Europe and America. This is not a time for “kicking the can down the road”.
We invented the car, why is China out producing us, 18.6 million vehicles last year. Wait until they begin exporting.

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
12 years ago

It’s over. Deal with it. We’re in the Asian/Brazilian century. We’ve become a country of soft, perverted self-indulgent, self-hating losers. From Audie Murphy to Matt Jerzyk in 2 generations!
First thing to do is to dismantle the war machine of the faded, flailing Empire.

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