Noted philosopher, Yogi Berra, is credited with saying, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Though a simple metaphor for making a decision, that “fork in the road” is precisely where we, as a nation, find ourselves mere weeks before the 2012 election. I don't believe it's an overstatement to say this is the most consequential election decision that you and I have ever faced, or ever will face.
Both presidential candidates are fond of saying the choice in this year's election, referring to the two paths that the respective candidates envision for this nation, could not be more clear. They are, of course, quite right. We have two candidates with two very different views on how and where to lead the country. When you stop and think about it, though, both paths ultimately lead to the same inescapable outcome — smaller government. It's inevitable.
One path will be difficult and rugged, at first, but with a happy ending. On it, we will address our budget crisis responsibly and with discipline. We will tie spending to a percentage of GDP, and stop spending money that we don't have. At the end of this path is smaller government — government as our founders envisioned.
The other path is the one we're already on. It's a much easier path to take, short term, but there's a fiscal cliff looming in the distance.
It's a path of uncontrolled deficit spending, government growth and a national debt that becomes so large it can never be repaid. Unabated on this path, we would experience the collapse of our dollar, of our economy and perhaps our government. Any resulting or surviving government would, by necessity, be smaller...much smaller. It's something our founders never could have envisioned.
Understanding the collective mind of the left – or the mind of the collective left — as I do, I've tried to anticipate some counterpoints to my thesis, and offer corresponding counter-counter-points.
1. “There's just not enough fat in the budget to trim.” Do you realize that we as a nation send billions of dollars in foreign aid to countries that don't even like us? Do you realize that an agency of the United States, the GSA, owns hundreds of office buildings that sit vacant, and have for years? These are just two examples. Is there really no place to cut the budget?
2. “If we cut spending, children will starve and seniors will have to eat cat food.” It's true that a lot of people rely on the government for basic subsistence-level aid. So, if the dollar or our economy collapse — or our government — who would be harmed more than this group?
3. “We don't want to go back to the failed policies of the last administration.” OK, let's stipulate that the Bush administration endangered our economy by spending way too much money — money that we didn't have. The only difference is the Obama administration has spent money we didn't have four times faster. The “failed policies of the last eight years” have become the failed policies of the last 12 years. In a very real sense, Obama's presidency could be considered Bush's third term...on speed. Do we want a fourth?
Page 2 of 2 - 4. “The rich need to pay their fair share.” The top 10 percent of wage earners already pay 50 percent of the tax burden. If that's not fair, then what number is fair? Give me a number. If the president gets his wish to let the so-called “Bush-era” tax cuts expire, that would generate about $85 billion for the treasury. Lots of money, right? Wrong. That amount would fund our bloated government for about 8.5 days. So why stop there? Let's confiscate 100 percent from the “rich.” That would generate about $1 trillion. Problem solved, right? Wrong. Our annual deficit, under Obama, is about $1.6 trillion. It's obvious that the debt can never be paid by the rich. It's going to be paid by us regular folks — or worse — our children and grandchildren.
So, we find ourselves at the proverbial “fork in the road,” and the choice really couldn't be more clear. Do we want to restore this nation to the vision of the founders, and create opportunity for every citizen? Or, do we want to become the world's largest banana republic (one without a climate well-suited for growing bananas).
One way or another, we're going to have smaller government someday.
It's inevitable. How we get there is up to us.
Les Mason is a resident of McPherson.