My week began with an unexpected email inbox battle between Nobel Prize-winning, Princeton-professing New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and my Uncle Dan. Krugman’s latest article explained that Greece, despite decades of fiscal irresponsibility, financial fraud and profligate spending (of other people’s money), is actually the victim of German austerity, rather than the cause of the fast-approaching collapse of the euro and the dissolution of the European Union. Krugman’s solution to the crisis is more government spending.
Next in my inbox was an untitled email from my father’s best friend since boyhood. My Uncle Dan has never won an award for his thinking. He didn’t go to an Ivy League college. After enlisting in the Navy in the ’70s, he paid his way through Florida State University and has had a pretty successful career as a banker in Texas. He is a cautious, kind man, a politically inactive, self-described independent who generally has something nice to say about everyone.
Below is the text of his email:
Please see the chart below. I do not care what side of the aisle a person is on, we have got to take seriously this budget deficit or we are in big trouble!!! What is it going to take to get both sides working together!!! The information below tells a sad, sad story!!
Snapshot of the U.S. Treasury
Total Receipts (2011): $2,303,466,000,000
Total Outlays (2011): $3,603,061,000,000
Deficit – New Debt (Annually): $1,299,595,000,000
National Debt (3/31/2012): $15,538,685,000,000
Recent Budget Cuts: $38,500,000,000
Source: Office of Management and Budget, TreasuryDirect.gov
To help you comprehend the magnitude of the debt and budget situation and the feeble efforts that have been made by both sides of the aisle to address the fiscal imbalance, I removed eight digits from the numbers above and imagine that this is a household budget:
Annual Family Income: $23,035
Money the family actually spent: $36,031
New debt added to their credit card: $12,996
Outstanding balance on credit card: $155,387
Budget cuts for the upcoming year: $385
That’s it. As a political appraisal, it’s so simple, it’s almost quaint. Uncle Dan’s email didn’t end with a prescription for societal renewal. It ended with math. He presumed the recipients would recognize the obvious solution. The one inference my wise uncle failed to draw is that the people in power who facilitated that balance sheet cannot possibly be the ones to fix it. With that said, Uncle Dan is right. A budget must be balanced. It’s a law of physics and nature as much as it is a sound financial practice. Unbalanced equations do not last. If they go unaddressed, physics, Mother Nature or the Gods of the Copybook Headings will step in and restore order. And they’re about to do so on an historic scale.
The arguments advanced by Krugman and Uncle Dan are profound, influential and old. It’s fitting that Greece is a centerpiece of their application. Uncle Dan’s reasoning makes him the intellectual descendant of Aristotle, who was condemning fraudulent government promises and confiscatory action 2,600 years ago. In blaming Germany for Greece’s sins, Krugman is the descendant of the ancient sophists who blamed a tree for providing the wood that made the arrow that killed a man, rather than the man who fired the arrow and stood accused of murder. Unfortunately, many in power have been listening to the likes of Krugman for a long time.
Since 2007, prophecies of global economic doom have been commonplace. Today they’re reaching a fever-pitched crescendo. George Soros says we have less than three months. Mark Steyn says run for the hills. Glenn Beck expects food scarcity and is predicting riots. Nancy Pelosi blames the rich. Eric Holder blames racism. Debbie Wasserman Schultz blames Bain Capital and the Koch brothers. And Paul Krugman, of course, says the disaster could be averted if we only spent more.
I disagree with them all. I’ve changed my mind about the inevitability of economic collapse. I’m not saying that it won’t happen. It will. But I’ve decided that it could be a good thing, especially in America.
Through monetary policy and bailouts, our leaders are currently employing the tactics of delay. They should stop. Bring on the doom. The problem will only get worse, and our people are better equipped to endure it now than they will be after a few more years of food stamps. Sure, half of the country is on the government dole. But half isn’t. As bad as our situation is, we’re still better off than most countries. We still widely believe in independence. When collapse does strike, the citizens of China, Italy, Spain and Greece will look to their governments for help and sustenance. Americans will likely look to themselves.
Independence is the desire to confront and address problems without the government’s help. Thankfully, there are a lot more Uncle Dans in America than there are Paul Krugmans.
Yates Walker is a conservative activist and writer. Before becoming involved in politics, he served honorably as a paratrooper and a medic in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.