The campaign will end; the debt crisis won’t
A flock of Democrats will replace a mess of Republicans ... it won’t mean a thing. They will go in like the rest of ’em: Go in on promises and come out on alibis.
— Will Rogers, Sept. 14, 1930
The long agony of the American people (well, one of their long agonies) will end on Nov. 6. When the cheering stops, when scripted hurrahs no longer stir up largely dispirited masses, when the last attack ads have aired (thank heavens!) and the people have made their choice, some semblance of sanity will return to the body politick of the greatest nation on earth.
Maybe then something will be done in Washington to address the nightmare problems the next administration, be it Democrat or Republican, will face. Maybe a lame duck Congress will get down to business and steer the country away from the “fiscal cliff” we’ve been reading about for months. Maybe something will be done about an appalling run of four straight trillion-dollar budget deficits. Maybe Harry Reid, if he’s still Senate majority leader, will get around to finally passing a budget. He hasn’t allowed a vote on this for the past three years.
Maybe they’ll get serious about a public debt that is reaching for the stars, a debt that if not quickly brought under control threatens to make the U.S. dollar not worth the paper it is printed on. (Primer: A thousand million is a billion; a thousand billion is a trillion; a thousand trillion is a quadrillion.) Maybe Republicans and Democrats will reach across the aisle. Hope springs eternal.
It’s said that $2 billion will have been spent this year by the Obama and Romney campaigns to elect or re-elect the next president. A new record! Yeah! As if that is something to crow about, like the home team winning another championship or pennant. There ought to be a better and certainly cheaper way to pick a commander in chief and leader of the free world. Why do presumably honorable candidates and their campaign staffs lie about their opponent’s character and alleged sinister intent if handed the reins of government? Why do responsible journalists let them get away with it?
In 2008, Barack Obama accomplished something that in hindsight seems simply incredible, something that had never happened before. (Without tipping my hand, I hope it never happens again.) With no executive experience, a slender and most unremarkable political record as an Illinois state legislator and first-term U.S. senator, no service in the private-sector economy or in the military, Obama won the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. He was the first black man to be so honored by either major party. He did this by besting Hillary Clinton and defeating what many considered to be an unassailable Clinton political machine. Then he won the presidency itself. Unbelievable!
For two years his party enjoyed strong majorities in both the House and Senate. The wildly popular new president could have achieved almost anything he set his mind to.
He has now served nearly a full first term. He has a record to run on. Supporters who think the achievement worthy of sober examination have reason to be concerned. True, he entered office in difficult times and, as he constantly asserts, he “inherited” a mess. Opponents claim, with some justification, that he has made the mess he inherited even worse.
Far from halving the Bush administration’s last half trillion dollar billion budget deficit, as he promised, he in fact has more than doubled that inherited deficit in each of his four years. He’s added in his four years more to the public debt than Bush did in eight. There are now more unemployed, fewer in the work force, more in poverty, and more on food stamps and disability than when he entered office.
Inflation is under control — if you believe Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. I don’t believe them for a moment, and if you do you probably have not been putting gasoline in your car (the price per gallon has doubled on Obama’s watch), putting a child through college, paying federal, state and local taxes, or spending money on things no one can possibly do without, like food and energy, which government does not take into account when computing increases or decreases in the cost of living.
Did you see that, come January, for the first time in three years, a COLA (cost of living adjustment) will be added to Social Security and federal employee retirement checks? The COLA, before taxes and larger deductions for Medicare, is 1.7 percent. Maybe they mixed that up with third-quarter growth. Actually, that was 1.25 percent.
Whatever. Don’t spend it all in one place.
R.L. Schreadley is a former Post and Courier executive editor.