In two key European elections today, citizens in France and Greece can choose between prudence and irresponsible fantasy. The U.S. will face a similar choice in November. Fantasy is the likely winner in all 3 cases.
The people of Greece and France are in an uproar over recently imposed austere fiscal policies, and the majority of people seem to want it to end. That’s all well and good for the next 2-5 years, after which point their countries will completely collapse. They are like patients with a curable illness that has painful treatment options which last 5 years but fix the illness for 50 years. They can accept and subject themselves to these treatments, or they can reject them and live comfortably for another 3 years, then die. The doctors in this scenario are politicians. One says “you don’t have to take this treatment, it’s painful”. Another says “you must take this treatment, painful as it is, or you will die”. Sadly, it looks like the people of both countries are going to go with the former. Disaster lurks for them.
America faces a similar challenge. Dr. Obama says “tax the rich and the bulk of our problems will be fixed”. Dr. Romney, with his assistant Paul Ryan, says “taxing the rich is a drop in the bucket and will fix nothing, and may even hurt us. We must cut spending, eliminate waste, innovate, reform our unsustainable social programs, or we will go bankrupt”. Which one sounds better to the average voter?
Americans will have to think more deeply than the Greeks and French come this November. If we opt for the easy but false choice sold to us by a charlatan, one of two things will happen. Either that charlatan will completely change gears and become responsible come 2nd term– thereby breaking all he is promising during this election cycle. Or we will move well down the path towards $15 trillion in debt, a situation where 75 cents of every tax dollar we collect goes to servicing debt rather than servicing people. It will spell the end for us.
Mitt Romney has been brave, and Paul Ryan even more so, in describing our situation and the radical steps we must take to fix it. President Obama has been cowardly, and he pretends (as indicated in his budgets which are pure fiction) that none our real problems exist. He never mentions Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security insolvency and reform, though these issues loom just around the corner. There is no sacrifice in Obama’s alleged solution, except for 1% of Americans. It’s a completely false choice.
One thing is for sure, and that is that the next 10 years will be crucial for democracies in the Western world. The majority of them will need to make huge, painful changes in their fiscal approaches. Whether they will or not will make history.