Fran Bradley: America is suffering from budgetary obesity
The obesity epidemic is an ever-growing threat to the well-being of our society. It casts a dark shadow over our individual and collective health. Unchecked, obesity could virtually destroy hope for future generations.
No, this column is not about the growing number of overweight people in our country. It is about the out-of-control growth in government spending, debt and regulation.
Government "obesity" threatens to destroy the American dream and bring our country's economy to ruin. The severe economic troubles in Greece and throughout much of Europe should serve as forewarning about the consequences of enormous public debt, bulging entitlements and stifling government regulations.
The recent conflicts over the fiscal cliff, sequestration, the debt ceiling and Social Security/Medicare unfunded liabilities are only a few of the pressing unresolved fiscal issues. Complete deadlock seems to indicate that we are unable to resolve these dangerous issues.
Other warning signs include a downgrade in our national debt rating and historic negative economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2012. Unemployment remains high (near 8 percent) with added indications of significant underemployment and people who have given up job searching.
Food stamp participation is at record levels, along with other entitlement programs. Detroit, along with many other cities, is on the verge of bankruptcy. Public pension funds are widely underfunded. Hundreds of billions are wasted on failed stimulus programs and green energy subsidies.
Almost 40 cents of every dollar our federal government spends is borrowed money. Our national debt is a mind-boggling $16.5 trillion and growing rapidly by more than $1 trillion per year. Every child born today is saddled with $50,000 of federal debt. And the bad news goes on.
Sometimes these numbers are beyond comprehension. Let's remove eight zeros and pretend it is a household budget:
• Annual family income: $21,700
• Money the family spent: $38,200
• New debt on the credit card: $16,500
• Outstanding balance on the credit card: $165,000
• Budget cuts proposed (sequestration): $850
Obviously, this family is in big trouble. Everyone knows you can't continue to spend almost twice what you earn, and you can't pay off a debt with only payment of 5 percent of your new debt. Bankruptcy and foreclosure appear to be in order.
Would you make a loan to this family? Of course not! And yet, add eight zeros, and you have the dreadful picture of our country's financial status. The size of our nation's debt is indeed mind-boggling at $16.5 trillion. Adding to the dilemma is the fact that we are adding $1.6 trillion new debt (called deficit) this year, with projections of $1 trillion-plus deficits over each of the next 10 years and beyond.
We are crossing huge red flag warning signs, like debt exceeding our gross national product. Many economists predict financial disaster at this level.
So what are our leaders doing about these problems? President Barack Obama promised before the 2008 election to cut the deficit (not debt) in half in his first term, or he would likely be a "one-termer." Instead, the deficit has grown by $6 trillion in just four years. Remarkably, he was re-elected.
The U. S. Senate (controlled by Democrats) has failed to produce a budget in four years. When House Republicans provide a budget, the president and Congressional Democrats play partisan politics and demonize any fiscally responsible spending cuts.
House Republicans agreed to stopgap measures (including tax increases for high-income earners) to prevent the fiscal cliff with hope that real spending reductions will be agreed to later. Now, Obama wants more tax increases and resists any real spending cuts.
We are on the brink of Obama's own creation, sequestration, but he seems to have a memory lapse, so he travels around the country blaming Republicans.
By the way, how can a $85 billion cut to a $3.8 trillion budget cause so much damage? It amounts to only 2 percent! Across-the-board cuts with detailed requirements are a dumb idea, but let's be honest about the effects. Clearly, we need much larger reductions in wasteful, lower-priority spending — it just doesn't look like this is in the cards near-term.
Former U.S. Rep. Tim Penny did a great job in his December column articulating the seriousness of our nation's fiscal problems. In January, he spoke to a "Friends of GOP" forum and presented a very pessimistic picture.
We taxpayers need to demand significant spending cuts that reduce our annual deficit to zero and begin to reduce our national debt. We owe it to our children and grandchildren. Join the campaign for fiscal responsibility and sign the Citizen's pledge at FixTheDebt.org.