Everyone knows that Greece is so far in debt that it is actually impossible for them to ever repay it all. France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and most of the rest of the EU is not much better. Even worse than Greece is Japan’s debt; at over 200% of GDP — and growing — it seems hopeless, despite some reputable economists thoughts that since a large portion of the debt is owed by one branch of their government to another, it is somehow not all that bad.
The U.S. debt is now $18 trillion and still growing at a rate higher than it ever was before Obama took office (Obama and Democrat protestations being wrong). We recently issued $1 trillion in new debt just to pay off old debt, despite bringing in record revenues. And when unfunded promises to pay for Social Security and Medicare benefits are factored into our liabilities, this debt becomes more than $100 trillion – an amount that has no more likelihood of being paid than Greece’s debt.
Yet all of these countries are fighting over the same issue. Every country knows that its debt was honorably borrowed, and needs to be repaid. One would think that, like an individual or family that incurred too much debt, government spending needs to be reduced to below the level of income, with the excess going to pay down debt. A program to stabilize must present itself as fiscally sustainable so businesses, citizens, and creditors can have renewed confidence.
But the Keynesian mentality – which would argue that such austerity measures would contract the size of the economy, thereby making it even more difficult to pay down debt – is unfortunately winning the day.
I do not believe that many honorable and intelligent people actually believe in this Keynesianism. It is just so much easier politically to tell your constituents that government handouts don’t need to be cut — because in doing so, you risk losing reelection. And populist leaders have a great time casting their (responsible) opponents as scrooges, taking advantage of the lesser educated and poorer individuals who will ultimately be hurt most by these irresponsible, spendthrift policies.
Why do I believe that the Keynesian theory is wrong? Not because of some sophisticated economic theory, but rather some simple history and logic, in no particular order:
1) Government spending wholeheartedly crowds out private spending, substituting inefficient political and crony-based spending for free-market, give-the-public-what-they want spending.
2) After World War II, government spending (military, etc.) dried up overnight. But a free-market, non-coercive environment at the time, allowed private investment to flourish and more than make up for the decline in government spending.
3) The outrageous level of U.S. spending in the last six years has resulted in the poorest recovery since the New Deal; FDR’s meddling only prolonged America’s anemic recovery. But the current sluggish economy should not be surprising either, since Obama’s policies are taken directly from FDR – raising taxes, bad mouthing as well as over-regulating businesses, giving organized labor excessive power, instituting policies that discourage people from working, and hurting international trade.
4) There is no evidence, in the last 50 years, that Keynesian theory worked in the real world. On the contrary, one need not look too far to Northern Europe vs Southern Europe — Latvia compared to Greece — to see the results of strict austerity measures vs fiscal tepidness, and each government’s current level of sustainability. Keynes fails wholeheartedly.
The bottom line is, if you borrow money, you have to pay it back. Just because you irresponsibly spent the money does not give you an out. Just because you can think of reasons to delay repayment, doesn’t mean that you should. Just because you are a government doesn’t mean you are exempt from your fiduciary responsibilities. Historically, the only countries to get their debt under control have been those that have cut spending.
Get spending under control and start paying down the national debt!