Nightmare at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue

A year ago today I posted an article and used the cover of the Weekly Standard and it’s worth reusing. A year later, though, both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue should be featured since both Congress and the White House are the subject of policy nightmares.

Here’s former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker from back in April 2008:

I am here to tell you, our Republic is at risk. Washington is out of touch and out of control… Frankly, I’m not just concerned about the sustainability challenges we face. I’m concerned about how far this nation has strayed from the solid foundations that our Founding Fathers provided for us in 1789.

Walker now heads up the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, having left the Comptroller General’s office before his term ended out of frustration that no one in government was heeding his warnings about the fiscal state of the nation. After watching our government operate for the past twelve months, it’s clear nothing has changed on that front.

Again, this poster from applies nicely:

Government: If You Think The Problems We Create Are Bad, Just Wait Until You See Our Solutions.

Here’s a quote from the Father of our country:

We should avoid ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden we ourselves ought to bear.

— George Washington (1796)

But who wants to listen to old George when there’s a possibility of a check from or a contract with old Uncle Sam?

This headline from an article on the Peter G. Peterson Foundation website is still among my favorites:

America Will Soon Owe More Than Its Citizens Are Worth

  • The sum of America’s debts and other financial commitments is about to exceed the collective net worth of its citizens, PGPF has calculated.
  • Growth in the government’s unfunded promises for social insurance programs such as Medicare, combined with a drop in Americans’ net worth due mainly to lower home equity values, is causing this unprecedented shift.

These debt measurement figures are old – so now they’re worse than this:

$184,000 per person living in the United States,

$435,000 per full time worker,

$483,000 per household.

We need not seek solutions from the spirits. This is from the Heritage Foundation:

  • The 22 percent spending increase projected for 2009 represents the largest government expansion since the 1952 height of the Korean War (adjusted for inflation). Federal spending is up 57 percent since 2001.
  • The White House brags that it will cut the deficit in half by 2013. The President does not mention that the deficit has nearly quadrupled this year. Merely cutting it in half from that bloated level would still leave budget deficits twice as high as under President Bush.
  • There is another choice. Not all future spending is inevitable. In the 1980s and 1990s, Washington consistently [yearly] spent $21,000 per household (adjusted for inflation). Simply returning to that level would balance the budget by 2012 without any tax hikes. Alternatively, returning to the $25,000 per household level (adjusted for inflation) that Washington spent before the current recession would likely balance the budget by 2019 without any tax hikes.
  • So with very little sacrifice, and no new taxes, the government could get its budget under control and the American economy could get fully back on track in three years. Isn’t that worth considering?

One scary news report outlined how high jobless rates could be the new normal.

Even with an economic revival, many U.S. jobs lost during the recession may be gone forever and a weak employment market could linger for years.

I don’t think that’s as frightening to our political class – both Republicans and Democrats alike – as the fact that cuts in government spending are necessary. We can no longer grow our way out of the problem.

Will we see cuts? We will eventually, or our economy will resemble a horror flick. Political leaders must stop digging, cut spending, and reform entitlements, or a financial Halloween will be with us 365 days a year.