Being an American politician is on the cusp of becoming a lot less pleasant and gratifying for one important reason: The era of wildly uncontrolled government spending is coming to an end.
Validating people with cash, pouring billions of dollars into economically unsustainable pipe dreams, and being the fairy godmother to every lunacy imaginable has been standard operating procedure for many decades, so this change is going to come as a tremendous shock to the system. Arithmetic is unforgiving, and the addition of tens of trillions of dollars of unsustainable debt over the past few decades equals a lot of misery for politicians who have perfected handing out government cash in exchange for votes and campaign contributions.
This is not a Democrat or Republican issue; both of our two major political parties have been complicit in overspending on a scale never before seen in human history. Lots of supposed emergencies and self-created crises have helped to pave the way for federal spending that was deemed to be “essential” by those who were essentially looking for a way to loot the Treasury.
It seems almost quaint that when Senator William Proxmire started handing out his “Golden Fleece” awards way back in 1975 to bring attention to wasteful government spending that the amounts were so incredibly small. Whether it was the Pentagon spending $3,000 to determine “if members of the military should carry umbrellas in the rain”, the National Science Foundation spending $46,100 to study “the effect of scantily clad women on Chicago’s male drivers”, or the Justice Department spending $27,000 to determine “why prisoners want to get out of jail”, the federal propensity for turning American citizens into the bankers for stupidity was already in full swing. Comparing this with the tens of billions of dollars that are today routinely spent on every boondoggle and economically suicidal scheme imaginable, it is little surprise that our nation is broke beyond all belief.
Unfortunately, fiscal rectitude in Washington is as dead as Disco, and the recently passed Omnibus federal budget bill, which few legislators apparently even read, is stuffed to the gills with earmarks and pet projects.
However, the signal difference between today and the halcyon days when the U.S. Postal Service was shelling out the then mind boggling sum of $3.4 million dollars on an advertising campaign to convince Americans to write more letters (whatever those might be) is that government spending is now seen as the cudgel meant to drive specific economic, educational, and social agendas that are largely divorced from economic reality, the pursuit academic excellence, or the desires of the majority of the American people.
In an effort to rejigger our nation in order satisfy the State central planners and war profiteers, faculty lounge and media Marxists, perpetually aggrieved haters, and social media scolds that increasingly hold sway over many of the mechanisms of governance and professional schools in our nation, we embarked on a vast and stupendously expensive experiment that has run for roughly four decades and has boiled down to funding individual and family dysfunction, social unrest, battlefield catastrophes, growing censorship, and official propaganda to the tune of approximately $30 trillion of borrowed money now hanging like a dead weight around our necks. Today this experiment has run its ruinously expensive course—and we are left to live with the dire consequences.
Raise your hand if you’re happy with the outcome.
The showdown now brewing in Washington over raising the federal debt ceiling—yet again—so that our nation can continue to spend money we don’t actually have is perhaps the most telling sign that decades of business-as-usual overspending is coming to an abrupt end. The coming months of backroom negotiations and public posturing will be a shock for Americans on par with Pearl Harbor and September 11th because, as in those two cases, we will wake up to a nation that is far less obliviously smug, mindlessly self-satisfied, and foolishly secure regarding our own power and invincibility. The days of writing checks we can no longer cash will stop, and we will have to learn to live with government that we can afford—not one that spends like a drunken sailor on a weekend pass.
If I have offended drunken sailors, who are probably more fiscally responsible than our elected leaders have been for many decades, please accept my apologies. In addition, please accept the simple fact that we will be hearing “no” a lot more in the years ahead.