The diagnosis is grim: fiscal cancer

By Tom Quiner

The diagnosis comes from a reliable “money doctor,” David M. Walker:

“We have been diagnosed with fiscal cancer.”

Mr. Walker is the retired Comptroller General for the Federal Government. I’ve been following him for a number of years and was pleased to see him interviewed in Dinesh D’ Souza’s hit movie, “2016: Obama’s America.”

For starters, Walker warns us that the national debt is much larger than the “official” $15 to 16 Trillion number being bandied about (what’s a trillion dollar difference between friends?).

That number doesn’t include a host of unfunded liabilities which the government has promised to pay to seniors, Baby Boomers, and others which ratchets up the real liability to $75 Trillion dollars, nearly a quarter of a million liability per legal American citizen.

I’ve watched loved ones die of cancer. It is painful beyond words. I don’t want to see my beloved country die of fiscal cancer, but that is the course we’re on if America doesn’t receive immediate treatment.

Bob Bixby who heads the non-partisan Concord Coalition isn’t sure if we’ll be hit with a sudden Greece-like crisis, or if it will unfold as “a long, slow erosion in the standard of living.”

We’re doing things to make the cancer spread. Take the social security trust fund. We’re using it to pay bills from the government’s general fund. We’ve used the money that was supposed to be set aside for retirement to expand government spending.

We’ve taken an asset, a trust fund, and turned it into a liability. We’ve blown our wad, but we still owe the money. The non-partisan Office of Budget and Management states bluntly:

“There are no economic assets in the Social Security trust fund.”

Makes me think of that great Paul Simon lyric:

“I have squandered my resistance for a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises. All lies and jests. Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

We thought we could have it all: lavish government spending, lavish entitlements, lavish perks for government workers. Now it’s time to pay the piper, because the cancer is spreading.

We have have certainly squandered our resistance.

The Government Accounting Office says that “if spending on government retirement programs remains on its current course and revenues grow at their historical averages, interest on the debt could skyrocket from its current 9 percent to almost 30 percent of the budget by 2040.”

America will look remarkably worse as that happens. Incomes will drop. Unemployment will rise. The government will have shrinking funds to sustain lavish welfare and entitlement programs. Our national defense will have to contract in an increasingly dangerous world.

There is a single cure to fiscal cancer: less spending.

Increased taxes is not the answer. Every new tax leads to increased government spending. That has been our consistent track record for forty years.

We must spend less. Paul Ryan presented a modest slowing of spending, but not nearly enough. And yet even with his tepid moderation, he is being crucified by the president and his party.

At this week’s Democratic National Convention, listen closely: what is their cure for our fiscal cancer? All I’ve heard from them is to increase taxes on American’s earning over $250,000 per year. Their proposed increased would pay the interest on the national debt for one day.

A one day reduction in interest payments, that’s their solution?

That’s a placebo.

We need strong medicine, and we need it fast.