Opinion

Gregg Easterbrook

The shock awaiting if the ‘super committee’ fails

Nov 17, 2011 17:19 UTC

Action by the debt-reduction ‘super committee’ is due in less than a week. You will not be surprised to learn the super committee may only announce grandiose goals, while “deferring” specifics to some unspecified future point.

If, after months of hype, the super committee turns out to be a Potemkin committee, taking no action against the tide of government red ink, here is what will happen: Absolutely nothing.

That’s why falling dangerously arrears on national fiscal policy is so seductive – in the short term, nothing happens. Greece, Italy, Portugal – their governments made irresponsible decision after irresponsible decision, and nothing happened. So the irresponsible decisions continued.

America’s political leadership can continue to act irresponsibly about money for years to come, and absolutely nothing will happen … until it’s too late.

Consider an analogy to household finances. My wife and I are squares about money. We borrow conservatively, repay early, plan cautious budgets and won’t buy anything unless we know we can cover the cost within a short time. The result is a nice house that’s mostly our own equity, plus retirement savings and a strong credit rating. In fiscal terms, we are pretty much where the United States was a quarter century ago.

The phony-as-a-$3-bill debt deal

Aug 1, 2011 15:55 UTC

Maybe Washington can start paying invoices with $3 bills — because the “dramatic” agreement to “reduce the national debt” is as phony as a three dollar bill.

Weeks of nearly round-the-clock negotiations among the White House, House and Senate have led to an “historic” debt deal that consists almost entirely of fluff, doublespeak and empty promises.

The politicians involved get to claim victory, and presumably will be rewarded with votes and campaign donations from the special-interest groups that, pretty much across the board, were spared any pain. Young people of the United States once again are hammered. If the deal becomes law, the national debt will rise again dramatically, while there’s no guarantee any cut will materialize — and the bill for this recklessness will be passed along to those under age 30.

Facing down the debt

Jul 20, 2011 18:07 UTC

Over the past three generations, America’s leaders have faced down the Depression, won World War II, won the Cold War, created Social Security and Medicare, passed the Civil Rights Act and dramatically expanded environmental protection. The record is one of boldness and triumph.

Today, America’s leaders face the challenge of reducing giveaways to special-interest groups. That is what the national debt issue boils down to — do Congress and the White House have what it takes to say “no” to interest groups that want to be showered with borrowed money?

Anybody can agree to a giveaway. In politics, nothing is easier than handing out bags of candy while making empty promises about fiscal discipline in the future. No mettle is required endlessly to say that this year everybody gets everything they want but look out, next year we get serious.

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