Friday, February 20, 2009

Our legacy to the kids

The national spending spree, by which the U.S. government will seek to get the country out of a slump caused by too much spending and debt by running up the credit cards and letting the kids and grandkids worry about the bills, is now law. It's a truly remarkable effort, not just because of the questionable economics behind the whole idea of stimulus spending, but because of the troubling ethical implications of trying to buy our way out of today's problems by binding the Americans of tomorrow to foot the bill for our idiocy. By doing so, it spends not just money, but the liberty of generations to come.

Respected economist Robert Barro calls the massive spending bill "probably the worst bill that has been put forward since the 1930s." Hundreds of economists, including three Nobel Laureates, joined Barro in denouncing the bill and calling instead for lower taxes and reduced government spending. Many of them say the spending spree is a doomed effort (PDF) to prop up a bubble economy that bad government policies created to begin with.

But even if (unlikely) there's some small degree of truth to Keynesian fantasy that prosperity can be purchased through a ritual involving throwing stacks of cash out the window, the money we've just committed to throwing out the window doesn't exist. The cash will have to be borrowed from people who expect a return on the investment. With interest, the cost of the final $789 billion stimulus bill rises to over a trillion dollars. And if, as is likely, the new spending programs created in the bill prove as hard to kill as government boondoggles of the past, the cost rises, according to the Congressional Budget Office (PDF), to include $820 billion in planned deficits, $1.7 trillion in additional deficits for the extended spending, plus $745 billion in interest costs. Total cost: In the neighborhood of $3.27 trillion. And that's on top of the existing national debt.

Do you have children? Do you have grandchildren? Cute buggers, aren't they? Let them enjoy themselves now, because they're going to have to work hard to pay off that bill.

That means higher taxes for years to come. That means an intrusive tax collection apparatus to service the endless demands of interest and principal payments. That means constrained choices and a big hole in the nation's wealth dedicated to paying bills the politicians ran up long years in the past.

It means life with a big, fat monkey on your back, placed their by your irresponsible parents.

If they choose to accept the burden.

I don't think they should. I've written before that I think those of us disgusted by the government's efforts to bind us into debt slavery should make it clear that we won't accept the obligation to pay of that sea of red ink. That goes double for my three-year-old son and all the other children living and yet to be born who had no say in this act of insanity.

My son can't be compelled to pay off my credit card bills or his mother's student loans; he certainly has no obligation to shoulder the cost of bad choices made by government officials for whom he never voted.

The "stimulus" bill signed this week is an assault on the liberty and prosperity of our children. When they grow old enough to respond, they should treat that assault with all the contempt it deserves, and shrug off the burden they've been handed.

And if that shrug hobbles the U.S. government's future efforts at financial creativity? Well. I guess I'd call that a feature, not a bug.

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Anonymous Jorge said...

Unfortunately, your son will be forced to pay at gun point, just like you and your wife are. Given that most of his peers will attend government schools(*), he will be in a very small minority should he choose to resist. If he resists openly, he will surely be shot or imprisoned.

Leaving the empire is pretty much the only way out. Get a second citizenship and escape, before it is too late.

(*) Most private schools are no better in this aspect, as they implement the same factory model.

February 20, 2009 10:31 AM  
Anonymous M.S, Phoenix said...

I'd put good money on an entire system crash before today's kids get old enough to have to worry about shouldering any financial burden from this.
If the current rumblings from state legislatures, and the economic rumblings from the private sector, the next 5-8 years are going to be very interesting.

February 20, 2009 11:09 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Why do civil libertarians so often go off the deep-end and start preaching revolution ? Revolutions may have a purpose in the long run, but if you care about your children, you don't want them living in revolutionary times. How about a tax on illegal drugs ? I guess this is revolutionary in a sense, but relatively victim-less, and it'd generate plenty of cash to pay off the infrastructure improvements that the US desperately needs (even if they're not going to be stimulating).

February 21, 2009 10:12 AM  
Blogger George Donnelly said...

When you get pushed into the deep end, you can't help but talk from that point of view - in fact, it's rational and appropriate.

"if you care about your children, you don't want them living in revolutionary times"

Wishing that something were not true does not make it so. And I would rather my son resist tyranny than submit to it. What about you?

Why do you think people need to be forced to pay for "infrastructure improvements"?

February 23, 2009 7:16 AM  

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