My neck will grasp as the rope descends
How much the ass weighs in the end.
Paul Krugman got a lot of applause from progressives last week for blasting the politicians and pundits who “cash[ed] in on the horror” of 9/11. A few days later, as if to prove that even Donald Rumsfeld makes good decisions occasionally (albeit for bad reasons), Krugman twisted Rep. Ron Paul’s answer to a why-are-libertarians-so-awful question at the tea party debate.
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Representative Ron Paul what we should do if a 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly found himself in need of six months of intensive care. Mr. Paul replied, “That’s what freedom is all about — taking your own risks.” Mr. Blitzer pressed him again, asking whether “society should just let him die.”
And the crowd erupted with cheers and shouts of “Yeah!”
The incident highlighted something that I don’t think most political commentators have fully absorbed: at this point, American politics is fundamentally about different moral visions.
Perhaps. Someone definitely needs to visit a moral ophthalmologist, anyway. Erik Wemple of The Washington Post remarked, “The distortion of which Krugman is guilty on this front summons parallels to Hannity and Limbaugh.” Ouch.
While we’re on the subjects of death and debt and Ron Paul and Paul Krugman, I ask you to consider the non-hypothetical case of a terminal glutton and spendthrift:
Our government is utterly broke. There are signs everywhere one looks. Social Security can no longer afford to send us our annual benefit statements. The House can no longer afford its congressional pages. The Pentagon can no longer afford the pension and health care benefits of retired service members. NASA is no longer planning a manned mission to Mars.
We’re broke for a reason. We’ve spent six decades accumulating a huge official debt (U.S. Treasury bills and bonds) and vastly larger unofficial debts to pay for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits to today’s and tomorrow’s 100 million-plus retirees.
The government’s total indebtedness — its fiscal gap — now stands at $211 trillion, by my arithmetic. The fiscal gap is the difference, measured in present value, between all projected future spending obligations — including our huge defense expenditures and massive entitlement programs, as well as making interest and principal payments on the official debt — and all projected future taxes.
The data underlying this figure come straight from the horse’s mouth — the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO’s June 22 Alternative Fiscal Scenario presents nothing less than a Greek tragedy. It’s actually worse than the Greek tragedy now playing in Athens. Our fiscal gap is 14 times our GDP. Greece’s fiscal gap is 12 times its GDP, according to Professor Bernd Raffelhüschen of the University of Freiburg.
In other words, the U.S. is in worse long-term fiscal shape than Greece. The financial sharks are circling Greece because Greece is small and defenseless, but they’ll soon be swimming our way.
I say sharks gotta eat, same as worms, but I’m waaaaay further out than The New York Times editorial page can even imagine. Back in the realm of red and blue, wacko wingding extremist Ron Paul calls for reducing the national debt, preferably by scrapping the most harmful, counterproductive government spending (hint: it’s not on Grandma’s prescriptions). Sober, wise, compassionate Nobel laureate Paul Krugman and other serious liberals have a different moral vision.
But whatevs. In the long run, we are all dead.