Grady Means | Opinion Contributor
In the 1960s, a small sign hung in the California State Capital, which warned: “No Person’s Life, Liberty, or Property are Safe While the Legislature is in Session.” It represents the cautionary wisdom that the tendency for governments to pass laws and grow, many times, may run contrary to the public good.
This is my reaction to President Biden taking a victory lap for the hundreds of pieces of legislation passed by last year’s Democrat-led House and Senate. It is also my reaction when nearly all media commentators bemoan how the tough negotiating by the Freedom Caucus and others slowed the process for “efficiently” selecting a new Speaker of the House, and, in turn, slowed the “business of government.” It is also my reaction when I see many Republican senators “sell the hangman the rope to hang themselves” (hat tip, Vladimir Lenin) by passing the omnibus spending bill, sight unseen.
To be clear, every one of these pieces of legislation takes money and power away from ordinary citizens and gives it to government bureaucrats. In plain English, it is a loud statement from the government that “we don’t trust you to use your money and power properly, so, in our wisdom as politicians, we will take it from you and show you how to do it.” Among other things, the government will tell you what car to drive, what fuel to use, what stove to cook with, what to teach your children, how to mutilate your children, how to manage your own health, what to think, and increasingly how to vote. It is disempowering and zombifying all Americans.
In short, vast amounts of new legislation — often passed by robotic bloc votes — is not “progress,” but rather, the corruption of America, the neutering of Americans, and the collapse of our culture. For that reason, it is refreshing and promising when a group of people finally stand up and say, “No.” It is either that or full collapse.
As reflected in Biden’s crowing about the massive number of new bills passed, or the Republican senators simply agreeing to pass massive spending bills they haven’t read, government growth has become a self-reinforcing freight train that (almost) can’t be stopped. And the train is nearing a cliff.
The massive COVID relief bills, the ill-named Inflation Reduction Act, the recent omnibus spending bill, and the hundreds of other new pieces of legislation will all continue to fuel inflation, unfairly taxing the poor and middle class, prompt Fed action on interest rates, and collapse the economy. It has driven America’s government debt-to-GDP ratios to unprecedented levels (well above 120-130 percent, meaning that we owe far in excess of our national income); our debt is growing rapidly and we are, really, approaching bankruptcy. Every poor and middle-class household in America is feeling this and can understand that it’s a disaster. Poor and middle-class Americans know that inflation is killing them. It is time to say “No” and tighten our belts.
Now, some will argue that we’ll simply grow out of our debt. That is highly unlikely if inflation and taxes reduce the funds to invest in growth and a failing school system is eroding our human capital. Others will argue that America can simply print more dollars to cover our debt, but that is the very definition of inflation. It automatically weakens the dollar, threatens its position as the world’s reserve currency, and undermines the system where the world invests in our dollars and provides us the security to cover our huge global debt — i.e., America’s financial Jenga tower, as impressive as it is, can collapse.
So, frankly, I applaud the congressional curmudgeons and happy warriors. One lens sees them as obstructionists, but another perspective is that they may be saviors. The acid test is the coming debt-ceiling struggle. It could shut down the government. It could shake the “full faith and credit” veneer of America. It could suggest America default on its debts. But, in truth, we’re getting there anyway. Inflating the dollar much further — that is, giving our creditors a 10-20 percent haircut on their loan repayments — already shakes our full faith and credit. Our debt-to-GDP ratio shakes full faith and credit. An American recession in 2023 will further shake the tower.
To use the (current and anticipated) inflation rate as a crude gauge for how much we spend over what we earn, we need to cut the government by at least 10 percent (and probably 20 percent). Looking at the U.S. government debt to overall GDP ratio of 120-130 percent — the highest in history — suggests cuts of 20-30 percent in spending. And since we’re spending more on education and getting less-educated students; spending more on health care and getting sicker and dying younger; spending more on defense and not defending our own borders, nor defeating our enemies; spending more on energy and getting more black- and brown-outs; spending more on “justice” and seeing rising crime, etc. — there would appear to be massive amounts of money wasted, dramatic program failure and the need for program reform in every corner of government.
Yes, shutting down the government — except for defense and limited essential and safety-net services — would be painful, but the direction we’re headed is unsustainable. The American voter and taxpayer needs to understand that the most powerful word they have is “No,” and now is the time to shout it.
Grady Means is a writer (GradyMeans.com) and former corporate strategy consultant. He served in the White House as a policy assistant to Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. Follow him on Twitter @gradymeans1.
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