Perhaps no violation of principle is more egregious than abandonment of the idea that the federal government should run a balanced budget. More than government programs and regulation, the intrusion of government spending into the economy misdirects the free flow of capital. More than any other national political figure, former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan should be held accountable for this violation of the principles of sound governance.
Ryan was an obscure congressman when he was appointed to President Obama’s National Committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, more commonly known as the Bowles-Simpson Committee. He was also considered to be a foremost expert on the federal budget. And, he advocated for a balanced budget right up until he didn’t. He left town (D.C. that is) with his tail between his legs after passing a hodgepodge tax reform bill that left us with trillion-dollar annual deficits. No responsible economist expects the resulting economic growth to offset the effect of those deficits over the long term.
It may be that the average voter doesn’t think in terms of principled governance. Most people vote from an emotional response to candidates and the aphorisms they use to frame their ideas. But the simple principle of keeping government out of my life and my wallet provided a resonant idea I and many others could embrace. When Republicans broke loose of their moorings – their moral underpinnings, if you will -- they opened the door for Trump who has never had any.
Trump’s appeal to the ‘little guy’ results from a broken deal. Within our social contract, it’s always been true that the rich get richer. And, the middle class has found that acceptable, so long as stable family life was part of the deal. But, even those with good jobs and stable careers, are getting squeezed by rising healthcare and tuition costs (both the beneficiaries of government largesse). Couple that with a rhetorical bent that favors business interests over citizens and the breakdown is reinforced.
Poor stewardship of our economy, domestic policy and foreign affairs during this century has left the door open to radical ideas from the left. If nothing is working, try something new! Anything new! Modern Monetary Theory (which economist John Mauldin calls Modern Monetary Madness) is Exhibit A. Radical ideas take shape when they find a way around traditional objections. MMT answers “how you gonna pay for that?” by answering “we’ll just create new money.” Not so long ago, these such an idea would be dismissed out of hand. Now, it is treated as worthy of consideration.
We celebrate our children’s successes but graduate them into a world that increasingly denigrates their success as adults. To make more money than your fellow citizens is cast as immoral and unfair by the extreme left and each of the 20+ Democrats running for president must buy-in to such nonsense to be considered a viable candidate.
When the left professes that the money to fund their outrageous ideas will come from taxing the rich, they demonstrate the failure of the public-school system to teach them simple arithmetic. AOC’s 70% tax on the rich would raise tax revenue within a range of $.5B to $29B/year according to the Tax Foundation.
But the GOP can’t credibly call them on it because they have lost the moral authority to do so.
WHO WILL LEAD?
What I’m reading
The Harvard Business Review analyzes the job market in What the Job Market Looks Like for Today’s College Graduates… Blogger Lin Grensing-Pophal outlines Seven Steps for Conducting a Visioning Exercise for those who are considering their future… Writing in Vox, NY Times technology columnist Kara Swisher asks, Can Anyone Tame the Next Internet?