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Belmont Club

Dense Pack

November 30th, 2010 - 2:02 pm

It’s an effect which calls to mind the “dense pack” strategic defense strategy of the 1980s. It worked on the theory that if you put US missile silos close enough together then incoming enemy missiles would interfere with each other. Each Soviet warhead would send up a cloud of debris that would knock out the others.

As the first inbound warhead detonates over its target silo, it would throw a large of cloud of debris over the entire missile field. Every other warhead targeted on that missile field would have to travel through that debris cloud to reach its target, and it was theorized that the act of traveling through that debris cloud would “trash” the warhead before it could detonate. Every successful explosion over the missile field would throw more debris up into the air, increasing the chances that each successive warhead would be destroyed before it could trigger.

Government programs do almost exactly that. They create budgetary ripples which go on for decades. They instigate unfunded liabilities that rebound off other fiscal shockwaves. Get enough spending missiles on the taxpayers’ wallet and after a while, they start colliding with one another.  Sooner or later one government program knocks the other out of the air; the cost of another entitlement becomes another federal pay freeze.

Paul Ryan, though not the Huffington Post, understands this. He knows that the biggest torpedo headed toward the fiscal Titanic is Obamacare. Once that hits the hull then the water pumped out by freezing federal government salaries is going to be inconsequential by comparison. “You cannot preempt a debt crisis, get this fiscal house in order without dealing with health care”.

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The only way that the really valuable civil servants can be sustainably employed is when it stays in sync with the tax base. Ultimately the elementary rules of arithmetic must prevail. Jane cannot eat more apples than the tree grows. If you want more apples, plant more trees. Freezing Jane’s consumption of apples will only work for as long as you are not offering future apples to Mary and Robert. This seems like a simple idea, but it is the hardest thing in the world for Hope to come to terms with.

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