Instapundit’s got a great challenge for his readers:
Staggering deficits. Exploding national debt. Grossly underfunded public pensions. Aging populace. Social Security on track for insolvency. Investors running for precious metals. Higher education bubble. Stagnant economy. Massive new government healthcare program. Words like “unsustainable” in CBO reports.
I have racked my brain and debated with anyone who was willing. I can’t come up with a way out of this that doesn’t involve printing vast amounts of cash, double-digit inflation and interest rates, and the end of the dollar as a global currency because we “soft default” trillions of the national debt. What productive capacity we have left would be gutted by the tax increases needed to honestly pay what we are going to owe. And the people we owe (China, seniors, public pensioners, etc) aren’t going to just write off the debt like a bank short-selling a beach house.
So my challenge to your readers is this: “How do we get out of this WITHOUT printing money?”
Too much national debt can be cured by more national income (GDP). If we had an economy that was four times our present size, the current level of spending would be sustainable. While it’s unrealistic to fix it all through economic growth, we certainly can make it better so that the necessary spending cuts don’t bite so hard or have to come so fast.
We need to identify and reduce our outflow and maximize economic growth. If we do this better than any other 1st world nation, we remain the world’s premier flight to quality country and we will have the money needed to get our fiscal house in order. Our interest rates will stay low because all the rich members of the rest of the 1st world will want to continue to park a good chunk of their money with us.
The top priority is to understand that we’re in this mess because collectively we’re misinformed. The wrong amount of money’s being created, spent, and it’s being spent on the wrong things. The next big priority to realize is that nobody knows the answers and that nobody, individually, will ever know the answers. We have a great system for relatively efficiently getting the answers. They emerge from the interplay of the free market. This system is currently working sub-par because we’ve used the law in complex ways that nobody understands to “tweak” things and the system’s gotten away from anybody’s control.
The people of the USA need to (yes, starting with me) take inventory of all the institutions that they’re supposed to be overseeing and start taking the job seriously.
1. Undo the tweaks (and yes, this one line could be expanded out to book length)
2. Create a fair deal for everybody instead of special deals for the politically connected
3. Promote entrepreneurship by getting out of the way
4. Pursue public sector productivity. It will never match private sector productivity but we certainly can do better.