It’s a Penn State bye week, so no football this week. Instead, I call upon an old, retired, neurotic mouse to ramble on about our dystopian future and politics in the forthcoming presidential election year. With high visibility crap going on all around us: Immigration crises, Hamas attacking Israel, Ukrainian funding, abortion rights, and two shaky candidates for our highest national office, he focuses on the American elephant in the room, the one-way ticket to hell in a Chinese handbasket: our national debt. Let the Mouse begin. —TNT
Greed and Dependency, and No Way Out
Government spending (i.e., institutionalized vote buying) is the biggest existential threat to the United States of America today. Our national debt has increased $12 trillion during the past two administrations, an exponential acceleration due to spending binges. This untenable indebtedness will not improve until we stop fighting fire with fire (e.g. misnaming spending legislation ludicrously as “The Inflation Reduction Act”), but methinks it is too late for that. We will continue to fiddle with minutiae while we elect irresponsible leaders who care only about remaining in office while Washington consequently burns.
Does It Matter?
Whether we elect Trump or Biden as our next president is inconsequential to resolving the national debt morass. Their track records on spending and those of Congresses during their administrations suck big time. What we’ll get is spending in either case. Half of us will agree with the spending by either ideological figurehead. The other half will say their candidate would have done better. Both halves are wrong. Both sides drink from the same fountain of power, and both buy our votes in hopes of keeping the elixir flowing.
I focus on Trump and Biden, but I don’t see much of a chance that this will not be a rematch of 2020. I am discounting the chances of any of the other so-called candidates. Barring anything spectacular, like Trump being deported to Mars, Biden sailing off on a Viking ship, or Hillary Clinton charging into Washington on elephant back a la Hannibal, we’ll be stuck once again deciding on the lesser of two evils. Both Biden and Trump have more negatives than positives, but that’s what our system and our greed yields as a parody of “choice”. Both are representative of who we think we are, and what we are ain’t pretty, either.
Spend, Spend, Spend, or Lose
Regarding spending, no viable candidate would dare to threaten closing the floodgates, a prospect that would doom their election. We are in a spending frenzy of governmental and civilian overindulgence, so anyone who vies for the big job must show that they can spend more than the others to satisfy the demands of the electorate. We want handouts, direct or indirect, but we don’t want to work for them. Furthermore, we don’t want to pay for them via either taxes or inflation. They know it and they want to buy our votes, whether through direct payments or tax cuts. No one is saying how the debts will be paid; no one wants to hear about it. It’s all just vote buying at a time long past when we needed to get the national debt under control.
Sweeping Our Bills under the Rug
We need to pay our bills — no question about it — but no politician will dare to do anything about it. At best, they’ll pay fleeting lip service “reducing deficits”. Those reductions never amount to much, because they cannot amount to much. Discretionary spending is dwarfed by the twin realities of entitlements and interest, which cannot be slashed. Hell, we’re at the point at which we cannot pay interest on our debts without borrowing more to do so!
No one will be elected on a platform of pain, rationing, austerity, and responsibility. We want to have our cake and eat it, too. Mo’ money, less work, and more entertainment. Tax cuts buy votes. Big spending buys votes. Hell, Trump managed to do both — he ain’t no dummy! One way or the other the government carves out our hearts and souls and wallets while leaving us just enough pocket change to keep us content in our anesthetizing hedonistic pursuits. We’ll wind up on the scrap heap of history, but we’ll be happy campers during our last moments!
Tytler Said It — Or Not
The now well-known and well-worn words, presumably but not provably spoken by Scottish historian Alexander Fraser Tytler over two hundred years ago, apply: “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From selfishness to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back into bondage.” Tytler might have said some or all of that at different points during his life. The concepts this pseudo-quote expresses are summed up pictorially below (courtesy of Wikipedia).
In any case, the so-called Tytler Cycle depicted above resonates with me. Our national attitude is somewhere between “Complacency” and “Apathy”, and we are diving headlong toward “Dependence”. We prefer to keep our heads up our asses and elect those who make us feel good momentarily. Our false dichotomy loving politicians cow us into believing that public welfare is superior to corporate welfare, or vice-versa, and we vote accordingly, while we collectively bend over and are screwed from both directions. As Ronald Reagan once said, “Government is the problem.”
Too Late, Baby?
Is it too late? This mouse thinks so. The Tytlerian point of no return is nigh if we have not already reached it. All the money floating around has distorted the value of everything, leaving us ripe for the taking. Modern Monetary Theory is a form of denial that legitimizes complacency for many anesthetized liberals, while many simplistic, monomaniacal conservatives merely ignore the debt issue. If Trump did it, it was good! Still others think the problem will resolve itself. Three heaps of different flavored mouse shit, I say. It’s bigger than all of us, so we throw our hands up in the air and conduct pseudo-intellectual ideological barroom debates, deluding ourselves by thinking it will be better when our guy wins. However, when we strip away all the bullshit and boosterism, finding the dust encrusted switch to our brains and daring to flip it to ON, we find no quick fix. Furthermore, our instant enlightenment reveals that our society, long accustomed to living beyond its means, will be unwilling to endure the hardship required to fix itself, so we quickly flip that switch back to OFF and hope it goes away.
Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Apathy and distraction never fixed a complex problem. That we spend trillions on entertainment while neglecting infrastructure, and that we divert more public funds to supplying disincentives to productivity than to promoting productivity are blaring billboards of societal deterioration. So is giving fringe elements of society standing for wacko causes by the hundredfold. We do not intend to give those things up, good or bad, no matter who we elect. And they don’t intend to change those dubious features of our advanced culture, so, they merely promise us more of the same. A chicken for every pot and a car for every garage. False prosperity has a distant echo.
Not only do we not know how we will pay the bills for the spending spree; we simply do not care. No one has a solution, so let us just keep fiddling. We have our football, our Taylor Swift, and our food stamps, all thanks to loose money and our beloved Federal Reserve. God forbid we should compromise any of that! Vote Trump! Vote Biden! They’ll give us more of the same, and future generations will pay for our excesses, because with complicity by corrupt Congress, they’ll both sweep the bills under the rug to be paid for by inflation. At the worst, financial chaos, scarcity, and perhaps revolution appear in my mouse-sized crystal ball. We’re screwed anyway I see it. We can only argue how more or less screwed we are within a small delta, but the major trendline of screwage marches immutably upward.
Am I offering solutions? No, just frustration. We have descended into a pit that I loathe. While I fear similar consequences regardless of which of the two clowns running for President is elected, the big mess is far beyond the capabilities of either one of them in the first place. Am I advocating voting for no one? No, I am not. However, the two-party system is rigged to favor power entrenchment in government, and they all know that a house divided cannot stand. So they promote the ideological dichotomy knowing that they — government — will ultimately win, no matter who we elect. They win, we’re screwed.
My frustration will only end when I shuffle off this mortal coil; however, I fear the Orwellian consequences future generations of Americans will face due to the stupid decisions and greed of my generation and its successors.
If I haven’t driven you away with my frustration blather, I’ll be back with a preview of the UMass bye week.