4 years ago
Professor N. Gregory Mankiw (Harvard) has a piece in The New York Times‘ business section that is intended to impress upon us all the frightful prospects that await the U.S. in the future if immediate action is not taken on the federal debt now. (Hat Tip to PowerLine)
As a disclaimer I must say that I do consider immediate action to rein in federal spending a critical piece of saving America’s future and the consequences for not doing so truly are fearful, but reading Professor Mankiw’s list of horrors brings to mind commonsense policies rather than doomsday.
Mankiw writes the column from the perspective of a U.S. president in the year 2026. The article is the text of the president’s speech to the nation. So let’s have a little fun and put ourselves in the audience for this 2026 presidential address.
Here is the calamitous news that the president is forced to give to the nation:
Yesterday, I returned from a meeting at the International Monetary Fund in its new headquarters in Beijing. I am pleased to report some good news. I have managed to secure from the I.M.F. a temporary line of credit to help us through this crisis.
(I like this bit about the HQ being moved to Beijing. It fits the Times’ recurrent fantasy that China is the paragon of economic and political progress, notwithstanding that China has more and deeper challenges to its future than America ever will).
This loan comes with some conditions. As your president, I have to be frank: I don’t like them, and neither will you. But, under the circumstances, accepting these conditions is our only choice.
OK, here it comes. The terrible, awfable, excruciating cuts…. wait for it….
We have to cut Social Security immediately, especially for higher-income beneficiaries. Social Security will still keep the elderly out of poverty, but just barely. [Emphasis added].
Nooooooooo! High-income beneficiaries may see a “cut” in their social security benefits??? How will they live without that unneeded income? How will they cope with the thought of having paid into what they knew was a rotten system with negative returns on their investment that had no, real prospect of ever paying them back what was paid in? The system that they chose to keep in place all those years by voting for Democrats that continually denied that there was even a problem with the system and obstructed and demagogued every attempt to reform it??? I hope it doesn’t get worse than this.
We have to limit Medicare and Medicaid. These programs will still provide basic health care, but they will no longer cover many expensive treatments. Individuals will have to pay for these treatments on their own or, sadly, do without.
Arghhhhhhh! The pain! “Limit” Medicare and Medicaid??? They will only provide “basic health care” and “no longer cover many expensive treatments” ??? Cruel world! We will be expected to actually pay for something ourselves or do without? This sounds agonizingly like personal responsibility! I can’t expect my family and friends to help with something like my health care when it is clearly the responsibility of the federal government to provide me with every treatment and drug into eternity! What about healthcare being my right?
We have to cut health insurance subsidies to middle-income families. Health insurance will be less a right of citizenship and more a personal responsibility.
Curses!!! There’s that word, “personal responsibility” ! No subsidies for the middle class? What’s next? Are they going to stop handing out free bread and eliminate the circuses at the Coliseum??
We have to eliminate inessential government functions, like subsidies for farming, ethanol production, public broadcasting, energy conservation and trade promotion.
The world is truly ending! Eliminate farming subsidies? Doesn’t the gubbmint know that farmers can’t survive on the record-high prices being paid for corn, soybean and other crops? Don’t they know that the world food shortage means that farmers need those subsidies more than ever?? And ethanol…we can’t live without that! Even if it does reduce the world food supply and costs far more in energy to produce than the energy released, it is so…GREEN and earth-friendly and makes us feel good that we’re doing the responsible thing rather than sending that corn to the starving people in Africa. And no more public broadcasting? Who will give me my liberal-biased news (besides ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, the AP, Reuters, AFP, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The LA Times…). No more money for energy conservation? Really? How will Americans know how to conserve energy on their own without someone to tell them how? Those bills I get from the utility company are so complicated.
We will raise taxes on all but the poorest Americans. We will do this primarily by broadening the tax base, eliminating deductions for mortgage interest and state and local taxes. Employer-provided health insurance will hereafter be taxable compensation.
Horrors! It’s simply outrageous to think that more than 50% of U.S. citizens should pay anything in taxes. This almost sounds like the nutty ideas of the “Far Right” all those years ago who wanted to restructure the tax code so that everyone enjoyed a lower, simpler flat tax without needing a high-paid CPA to do their taxes. And those employer-sponsored health plans have been so vital to keeping down costs, too! Taxing these might actually force Americans to switch to a model for health care that would make sense and be affordable– the villainy!!
Thank God! Finally this president is talking sense. It is way past time to crank up the gasoline tax another $2 per gallon. I’ve always thought those tiny, little Smart cars were so cute. Now everyone will have to drive them. And I hear they have an optional drive train installed— pedals. So cute! And with that extra $2 per gallon, the federal government will know just how to spend that money curing the “various social ills.” Yes, like “global climate change.” Even though it is the year 2026 and none of the things the global warming scientists predicted have happened — massive crop failures, all the coastal cities flooded out and the polar bears drowned– we just know that one day global climate change is going to kill us all, so why not $3 or $4 per gallon tax?
AS I have said, these changes are repellant to me. When you elected me, I promised to preserve the social safety net. I assured you that the budget deficit could be fixed by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse, and by increasing taxes on only the richest Americans. But now we have little choice in the matter.
Wow! I just had an incredible feeling of de ja vu listening to you, Mr. President. Here it is 2026 but I am almost sure that I heard some, other presidential candidate promise that all our problems could be fixed simply by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse and by re-distributing the wealth of those greedy, evil, rich people– let’s not even call them “Americans”; real Americans don’t get rich unless they are the right kind of rich people who live in L.A. and donate small portions of their money to causes like saving the California Crested Booby-Hatch or promoting the rights of pedophiles.
It’s OK, Mr. President, I see now that you had no idea that being president of a big country like the U.S. would be so hard and I understand that you don’t have any choice but to make these terrible, awfable cuts.
But maybe, if you have the time, could you look into closing Guantanamo?