The Conversation

Don't start thinking about tomorrow

In response to Do We Care About Household Budgeting? :

That's an interesting point regarding Americans' attitudes toward fiscal discipline.  Of course, it would not be illogical for people with shaky personal budget practices to insist that a massive government which employs scads of six-figure employees take better care of the trillions they seize from taxpayers.  Most of us probably insist that businesses we voluntarily interact with have better record-keeping and financial planning standards than individual people.

It's common for Washington's irresponsible deficit spending to be compared, at least rhetorically, to credit card debt: Uncle Sam staggering through a shopping mall full of bloated vote-buying programs with a fistful of well-worn Visas and Mastercards.  But deficit spending is actually much worse than that, because it raises the permanent baseline of government spending, creating programs that go on for year after year.  Also, the money is used to hire people for permanent government jobs, instantly transforming them into human shields against reform.  You can't cut spending or you'll be sending all those good folks to the unemployment lines!  And of course, they vote, and reliably dedicate their political efforts (and those of their powerful public employee unions) to the expansion of the super-State which nourishes them.  Treating all this as a credit-card shopping spree undersells how dangerous it really is.

I think you're right to suppose that wild spending, easy credit, and immediate gratification produce a mindset highly receptive to Big Government, which is all about burdening future generations with debt to provide today's voters with benefits.  The notion of "saving up for something" seems hopelessly antique.  And people have come to think of debt as an abstract, fundamentally unfair burden - an imaginary sprawl of red ink that can (and probably should) be waved away by greedy creditors.  

How many people on the Left have dismissed concerns about the national debt by saying it's just "money we owe ourselves" or some such nonsense?  But the very same people are willing to believe that the "full faith and credit" of the U.S. government would be destroyed if we didn't keep raising the debt ceiling.  I would imagine people who carefully monitor their own debt have more difficulty making an honest effort to reconcile that contradiction.


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