OUR CIVILIZATION, way of life, economy, savings and jobs are at risk. The circumstances for our kids and grandchildren are even worse, and remarkably we aren’t even talking about the mounting national debts that make this so. This week I hope to begin changing this as I move to New Hampshire.
I recognize how tough this will be given all the focus on impeachment, but there are times in life when it’s vital we focus on more than the immediate — and today is one of those times. Love him or hate him, President Trump will be gone in months or years. We won’t be so lucky with the national debts now accumulating.
We can’t go on with the chorus of democratic presidential contestants eagerly trying to outbid each other in offering new, unpaid political promises with our money. We can’t go on with a President who each day seems to delight in shattering yet another political norm or demeaning someone new. Yet these things mark our electoral season as we are distracted from our march toward bankruptcy as a nation.
In fact, economist Herbert Stein once wryly noted that “if something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”
And most people I know will acknowledge, at a gut level, they don’t believe that Washington can rack up trillion dollar deficits indefinitely — but since few others seem worried they figure, why should they? Our survival as a species has certainly been aided by our reading of social cues, but at times this instinct does us great harm. We are at one of these moments.
Such was the premise of Charles Mackay’s 1841 book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, and we are kidding ourselves to think that today’s era of financial denial in Washington ends well. As a civilization we are now driving off a cliff of financial recklessness and not even discussing the dangers and consequences of doing so. We have a cancer that policy makers seem unwilling to acknowledge, and tragically this is not unusual.
Civilizations have a regrettable bias toward extinguishing themselves financially.
But let’s leave history aside and focus on today. Our country is at a tipping point based on the build-up of debt, accumulating deficits, and the spending that drives both. It was Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who when asked of America’s biggest threat answered, “the American Debt.” Thoughts like his, and actions like the debt ceiling increase quietly signed off on by the President and Congress in early August, bring us to the need for a change in direction.
The presidential election cycle has traditionally served as the time every four years when this occurred. It gives us a chance as Americans to debate where we are as a nation and where we are going, but on matters of debt and spending this isn’t happening on the Republican or Democratic sides. We need that debate now.
Particularly as Republicans, our party could be made stronger by doing more than ceding ideas simply based on the force of President Trump’s bravado. When spending under his watch is up over 20 percent from President Obama’s last budget, as a conservative, I think it’s important to challenge the Trump spending paradigm.
So again, there is much I think we need to change in Washington. What do we believe on trade and an inward turning direction by this administration? How dear do we hold political institutions that have been vital to balancing power for over 200 years?
What of civility and tone in Washington? These are important questions, as are debates on what comes next on health care or the environment, but concurrently we need to focus on the ways we are headed toward a monstrous financial storm but not talking about it.
History has shown that when a country’s financial issues are not confronted politically, financial markets are left to the task. In doing so markets don’t care whether you are Republican or Democrat, or about good political spin — they care about math, and ours does not add up in Washington.
So what do we do? I say make noise. The answer lies with each one of us doing what we can by starting conversation here with family and friends. This problem will not be solved from Washington, rather by each one of us pushing the idea on Washington. As a Republican running for President of the United States, I am working hard to elevate this debate given my unique perspective — as a former member of the Budget Committee in Congress, as a former two-term governor who inherited a billion-dollar deficit and as a taxpayer.
Let’s raise our voices together.