If most people know anything about the early Christian Saint Augustine, it may be his prayer: “Oh, Master, make me chaste and celibate – but not yet!”
While there are various layers and interpretations of exactly what Augustine meant, the popular version is of a man who years to be free of earthly desire…eventually. The same could be said of politicians throughout history, and none more so than our current political class.
The worthies are, apparently, grappling with their most earthly of desires, the nearly uncontrollable desire to spend other people’s money. And when that runs out, to borrow and spend even more.
Self-styled fiscal conservatives would rather shut down the government (or at least parts of it – the parts that don’t affect Social Security checks of course) and make cuts – real and imagined – to current spending levels.
The reason: deficits and debt are dangerously high. We have to fix it! Except they don’t really seem to act like there’s a problem. Let alone one that poses a danger to our ability to control our own fiscal destiny. As Politico reported:
In interviews with a dozen members of both parties on Capitol Hill, even GOP lawmakers acknowledged an inability to reach consensus within their own ranks on the path forward. Democrats want to focus on raising taxes, not spending reductions — and some don’t agree that deficits are an urgent issue at all. Both President Joe Biden and Donald Trump have refused to entertain cuts to Social Security and Medicare — taking two of the biggest drivers of the debt off the table. “Do Republicans have the political will? We sure do talk big,” House Budget Chair Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) said. But he questioned whether either party can put aside “the politics of brinkmanship” to “come up with something that probably both sides won’t like.”
That’s an extraordinarily difficult thing to do when one part is deep in denial about spending and the other is too busy playing to its social media accounts. And as for the aged major party presidential frontrunners…both are profoundly, even dangerously, unserious when it comes to fixing the government’s fiscal ills.
The thing is…even a booming economy might not be enough to sustain the current entitlement system. That swill come as a shock to the undercard candidates seeking the GOP presidential nomination:
Higher economic growth likely would strengthen Social Security’s finances by increasing wages and therefore payroll tax revenue. However, those same wage increases would result in higher benefit payments over time, as initial benefits are based upon wages and the benefit formula is indexed to wage growth. Furthermore, because the trust fund is only a decade from exhaustion and faces such a large shortfall, even a substantial boost in growth would only slightly delay trust fund depletion. Indeed, the Social Security Trustees have estimated that a 50 percent increase in real wage growth would only delay Social Security’s insolvency date by one year. While it’s really too much to asked would-be office holders to think beyond their talking points, one might nurse a sliver of hope that those who are in office right now will accept the challenge before them and meaningfully address fiscal policy.
In other words, they’ve had years of dithering over when to become fiscally chaste. Time to accept the inevitable.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of The Republican Standard. It was first published in American Liberty News. Republished with permission.