Opinion

Undecideds: Please read this before voting

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David Cohen
Former Deputy Assistant Sec. of the Interior
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      David Cohen

      David B. Cohen served in the administration of President George W. Bush as U.S. Representative to the Pacific Community, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior, and as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He is the author of “<a href="https://www.createspace.com/3859219"> Left-Hearted, Right-Minded: Why Conservative Policies Are The Best Way To Achieve Liberal Ideals</a>.” Follow him on Twitter @DavidBCohen1.

Dear Undecided Voter:

Given that you’re an undecided voter, you probably don’t believe those who keep saying that this is “the most important election of our lifetime.” I’m sure that sounds like political hyperbole to you. It isn’t. This is indeed the most important election of our lifetime, and I say that with confidence without even knowing how old you are. In a nutshell: Re-electing President Obama will lock us into a course that will lead us to fiscal collapse, place unimaginable burdens on our children and destroy the ability of government to protect our interests around the world and the most vulnerable here at home. Before you dismiss that as mere partisanship, please take a few moments to read my explanation.

Our debt is simply unsustainable, and the consequences will eventually devastate us — perhaps sooner rather than later. In September, the federal government’s debt passed the $16 trillion mark for the first time in history. Our debt now exceeds the total value of everything our economy produces in an entire year. We now spend over $200 billion each year just to pay interest on our federal debt. A good chunk of that money goes overseas to China and other lenders. That’s money we can’t use to help the poor, help seniors, educate kids, protect our safety or do anything else that we may want our government to do. The path we’re on will cause our annual interest payments to soar to almost $1 trillion in a decade. By that time, we’d be wasting almost 20 percent more in interest payments than we’d be paying to help seniors through Medicare.

As bad as that sounds, it’s actually much worse: The federal government’s “unfunded liabilities” — the amounts it’s legally on the hook to pay under Social Security, Medicare and other obligations, but does not have money set aside to pay for — have been estimated at a mind-boggling $84 trillion. Indeed, some respected economists have estimated that our unfunded liabilities actually exceed $200 trillion. Whichever estimate is correct, one thing is certain: Our children will face the almost impossible task of paying the gargantuan bills that we’re running up so that we can spend on ourselves. That is beyond immoral.

If you want to see where we’re headed, look at the disaster unfolding in Greece. For years, Greece kept borrowing so the government could indulge its people with all sorts of extravagant benefits. Greece kept living beyond its means without thinking about the future. The future has now arrived, and it isn’t pretty. The Greeks have so messed up their finances that other countries are no longer willing to lend them money. They now have to dismantle their welfare state in a desperate attempt to stay afloat. And rather than accept the consequences of their irresponsible behavior like adults, Greeks are rioting in the streets in a hopeless effort to preserve their welfare state. The once-proud people of Greece have had their spirit, strength and dignity sapped by their dependence on that welfare state. And the government, which had tried to be all things to all people, can no longer afford even to protect the most vulnerable in that society.

Here in America, we’re dangerously close to an important tipping point: almost half of Americans pay no income taxes. That is not to in any way demean those people — many have earned that right with their service to our country, their payments into the system or for other reasons. But value judgments aside, what will be the practical effect of having the people who don’t pay income tax being able to outvote the people who do? Will the voting majority not be tempted to vote themselves more and more benefits at the expense of others who are paying the bill?