Our nation’s looming fiscal nightmare, as foreseen by columnist David Brooks:
Elections come and go, but the United States is still careening toward bankruptcy. By 2020, the U.S. will be spending $1 trillion a year just to pay the interest on the national debt. Sometime between now and then the catastrophe will come. . . It will come with amazing swiftness. The bond markets are with you until the second they are against you. When the psychology shifts and the fiscal crisis happens, the shock will be grievous: national humiliation, diminished power in the world, drastic cuts and spreading pain.
That’s why it was depressing, if unsurprising, to see the reaction from a lot of political leaders to last week’s trial balloon from Obama’s Deficit Commission. The Def Com released a long list of budget cuts and tax increases that could not possibly please everyone. It’s the strongest, most bitter medicine in the cabinet, but only the naive could think there is some easy, no-pain way out of this problem. To dig out of a hole like this one, everybody’s got to lose something they want.
But what do we do? Reduce our nuclear arsenal? Raise fees on national parks? Dump a bunch of federal workers? Raise the retirement age again?
Since the issue is going to dominate politics in the next few years (let’s hope), we should get familiar with the options. So jump right in: Thanks to this ingenious interactive feature in the NY Times, anyone can take a shot at balancing the budget and rescuing our country from a disaster that could make the past two years seem like a walk in the park. Give it a try here. Every time you cut something, you’ll see the ocean of red ink shrink. Just check the boxes and watch the billions melt away!
Confession: I solved the whole problem in ten minutes. It’s easy when nobody is trying to stop you. I’ll share some of my fixes in the next few days.