The United States of America is on the verge of national bankruptcy — in reality if not technically. The printing press can, for a while, disguise how insolvent we are becoming. But we are indeed headed in the direction of Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain and other governments which are broke.
We have maxed out our national credit card. A 14 trillion dollar national debt, which requires a $1 trillion annual interest payment, is a national disgrace.
And you can thank both political parties for it. Yes, the Republicans are as equally responsible as the Democrats for thirty years of profligacy.
OK. Let’s not spend valuable time looking backward; let’s instead figure out how to solve the problem:
1. The just-completed Commission on the National Debt was a terrific first step on the road to having Washington, D.C., address the problem. They began the process of educating the American people on the specific solutions on both the spending and revenue ends of this problem.
2. The tea party movement of the last year heroically has led the way on these big concepts: federal spending must be cut, the deficits eliminated, and the debt paid down. That is the only way to save our nation.
3. But the tea party movement never had to deal with the specifics of how to do this. They did not have to put meat on the skeleton of debt reduction;
4. Make no mistake: cutting programs and raising revenue are now the predominant political issue of our time.
5. Friday’s devastatingly bad jobs numbers reinforce the hopelessness of the American economy today. We are not going to regenerate a once-vibrant economy while saddled with so much debt — federal, state, and personal.
6. But — and this is the big but — making the cuts in entitlements and the Pentagon and agreeing to changes in taxes that can be called “raising taxes” is where things will get very, very difficult because many of the same people in the House and Senate who created this ongoing disaster are the ones deciding how to fix it.
7. Every single item in our federal budget has been put there over the years through a concerted, detailed, and orchestrated lobbying campaign often supported by powerful political constituencies and huge campaign contributions. To now remove, cut back, re-jigger or alter any of them is going to cause a war inside D.C.
8. The president — who has spent money like a madman during his first two years — has an opportunity now to remake his so-far disastrous presidency: He can either remain a detached, hard-left liberal who has lost the American center and is a greatly reduced figure after the midterms or he can transform himself into a leader who seizes this debt issue as his issue and remakes the national debate on terms that help him.
And, politically, he can salvage his presidency and even get himself re-elected if he does this correctly. He will have to take on the hard left and the hard right — but in the process will retake the more-valuable center — in order to do this.
9. The debate on how to fix our debt problem has begun. What we do not yet know is who will star in this debate. Will it be Barack Obama, who has no expertise in federal budget issues or in economics but is the POTUS and thus can command any stage any time he wants? Will it be GOP rising star Paul Ryan, the incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee? Or will it be someone not yet on our radar screen?
10. Whoever it is, the issue — saving our national economy — is the issue of our lifetime.
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