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Ed Driscoll

Chart of the Day

September 23rd, 2010 - 12:37 am

At Power Line, John Hinderaker reviews the GOP’s “Pledge To America,” scheduled to be unveiled today, and concludes with the following chart:

There is much more about specific policies–the Pledge is lengthier than the Contract–and those proposals contain few surprises. Contain government spending, roll back TARP and the stimulus, preserve the Bush tax cuts, and so on. There are just a few charts and graphs in the document, but this one caught my eye:

At the end of the day, federal spending is what the debate is all about. More federal spending means less money, less power, less freedom, less self-control for you. Or else for your children. Less federal spending means more power, freedom and self-control for you and your family, plus a much stronger economy. The Republicans are on the winning side of that argument.

And they have been since the late 1970s. But then, as Andrew G. Biggs asks at the American Enterprise blog, “If Americans prefer smaller government, why does it continue to grow?”

For once, perhaps Michael Kinsley can help to answer that question:

Debt is everywhere you look. Here’s a short inside piece in The New York Times Magazine about state and local unfunded pension obligations for retired employees. They add up to between $1 trillion and $3 trillion. Until that article, I had given no thought whatsoever to shortfalls in state employee pension funds. You?

As Karl at Hot Air writes, “Well, yeah:

And Matt Welch points out that Reason magazine has been all over the problem. And if you’re reading a conservative blog like this, you probably knew about it from Reason, or the Weekly Standard, or the American Spectator, Fox News, City Journal, the CATO Institute, National Review, the Heritage Foundation, Rush Limbaugh or any of the other right-leaning media that have been discussing it for years, but prominently for about a year.

In fairness, after the Pew Center on the States reported on the trillion-dollar gap in state employees’ retirement benefits, establishment media including Reuters, NPR and even the NYT did stories on it. But it is fair to say that if someone as entrenched in the center-left establishment punditocracy as Michael Kinsley had not heard about the issue until recently — despite ongoing budget crises in states like California, New Jersey, Illinois and New York — it has not gotten the sort of media coverage that might be expected of a $1-3 trillion dollar problem.

But then, this is the flip-side of Newsweek declaring early last year that “We Are All Socialist Now.” Actually, we have been since 1933 — and this is the price we’ve paid for 80 years of ever-growing spending, capped off with the past two years’ wild orgy of debt. Or as Mona Charen writes at NRO:

The federal government will borrow an estimated $3.7 trillion by 2011. As the Wall Street Journal noted, “That is more than the entire accumulated national debt for the first 225 years of U.S. history. By 2019, the interest payments on this debt will be larger than the budget for education, roads and all other non-defense discretionary spending.”

When you consider the Obama ascendancy as a case of pent-up liberal Democratic demand, things come into better focus. How else to explain why a Democratic government would push through a new trillion-dollar health-care entitlement when large majorities of the electorate have signaled near-panic over growing government debt? How else to explain the $800 billion stimulus (whose funds went largely to public-sector union workers) and the obese budgets? “This is our time,” candidate Obama intoned in 2008, “This is our moment.”

But their moment came too late. If this had been 1980 or 1990 or even 2000, the Democrats might not have suffered the backlash they are now enduring from the electorate. But they chose to indulge their spending spree just when Americans were sobering up about past overspending in their private lives. The recession was a smack across the head reminding people that those jumbo mortgages and home-equity loans were mistakes — that eventually the bills come due.

The Obama moment was further undermined by reports from state capitals. Big-spending states like New Jersey and California are verging toward bankruptcy, while more modest state governments like those in Texas and Virginia remain sound. As if that weren’t enough, examples from abroad painted bold letters on the wall. Greece and France were paralyzed by strikes and even riots by public employees protesting any reduction in their sinecures. Nevertheless, Germany, France, and Great Britain have begun to back away from the precipice by reducing spending. Even Cuba has decided that its government is too big.

That’s what the next two elections will be about. Liberal Democrats might want to frame that Time magazine cover featuring Obama as FDR — that was their high-water mark.

Future generations will remember our actions, or lack thereof, come November.

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