With last week’s debt-ceiling rollback, Washington, D.C. politicians dug our nation $175 billion deeper in the hole…
Your share of the bill, divided across the 98 million Americans who pay federal income taxes, is $1,785.
Of course, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the total national debt, now at $20.5 trillion… or some $200,000 per taxpayer. And it’s expected to grow by another $1 trillion over the next year… another $10,000 per taxpayer.
What happened to the party of fiscal responsibility?
The truth is that it never existed.
As our Editor in Chief P.J. O’Rourke wrote last year…
This kind of reckless government overspending has been going on all our lives. We’ve had only five balanced budgets in the past 60 years and no significant reduction in the national debt since Ike’s second term.
Eventually, no matter how long you stretch out your dinner at a restaurant – more wine, dessert, coffee – the bill comes due…
And who do you think is going to pay it?
It’s not going to be the poorest among us.
Most Americans can’t scrape together $500 to handle a life-and-death emergency. And two-thirds of the nation would struggle to meet a $1,000 unexpected expense.
The problems in our country are real. And this is with a growing economy… near record-low unemployment… and low levels of inflation.
What do you think happens when the next recession hits?
We hear two so-called “solutions” to our debt crisis being talked about at the highest levels of the global elite. And if you’re a saver or an investor with a 401(k) or IRA, you’re probably not going to like either of them.
The first is…
A Massive ‘Debt Jubilee’
We’ve talked about the idea of a Debt Jubilee before in these pages…
In fact, American Consequences feature contributor Porter Stansberry has written a thorough essay about this idea… and an entire book on the subject.
So rather than repeat ourselves, we recommend reading his new book, The American Jubilee.
He reveals the secret reason why working-class Americans have gotten dramatically poorer over the past 40 years. And why the so-called “elites” are getting so much richer – while everyone else is falling behind.
Once you understand this secret, you’ll see why, for millions of Americans, a crisis is coming. Porter calls it “the biggest scam EVER perpetrated against the American people” – and you can learn everything, including what you can do about it, right here.
The second “solution” is something P.J. has called one of the worst political ideas ever…
A Bad Idea That’s Gaining Ground
By P.J. O’Rourke
The bad idea of having the government give us things for free is hard to resist. And as the bad idea gets worse and worse, resisting it grows more and more difficult.
The Universal Basic Income (“UBI”) figure most often named is $1,000 a month – to every citizen over 21 with few or no strings attached.
This UBI would replace current federal welfare and retirement income benefits, either completely or mostly or partly – depending on which UBI advocate is advocating.
A worrisome thing about UBI is that the notion comes to us from both the political left and the political right. (There is some hope – opposition to the notion comes from both sides, too.)
Last year, the non-partisan Intelligence Squared organization, which holds debates on current affairs around the world, conducted a debate about UBI at the Kauffman Center on the Upper West Side of New York.
Arguing in favor of UBI was the sternly libertarian conservative sociologist Charles Murray (a dear friend – and never more so than when we disagree). Charles had been recently chased off the campus of Middlebury College for his politically incorrect views. With Charles on the “yea” team was Andy Stern, the very liberal former president of the Service Employees International Union.
On the “nay” team were, of all people, two stalwarts from the Obama administration – Jason Furman, former chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, and Jared Bernstein, former economic advisor to Joe Biden.
I listened to the debate on NPR and am glad to say that the audience of Upper West Side New Yorkers, whom one would expect to be of lefty tendencies, rejected Universal Basic Income by a margin of 63%.
But there are people in favor of such a plan who have much more political clout than Upper West Side New Yorkers… These people are, again, not easily slotted into “left” or “right” political categories. These people are Silicon Valley powers-that-be.
According to articles in the San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, Elon Musk wants a Universal Basic Income. So does Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, along with Zipcar founder Robin Chase. Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, has donated almost half a million dollars to a UBI pilot program in Kenya.
Plus, there is a long history of UBI proposals that span the ideological spectrum…
Thomas Paine argued for one. Napoleon Bonaparte argued for another. Fans of UBI include Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman – two gods of free-market economics who were mere misguided mortals on this subject. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, towering intellectual of the 20th century left, hatched something called “GMI” (Guaranteed Minimum Income) in cooperation with Richard Nixon, the towering dirtbag of the 20th century right.
UBI keeps popping up like a bad penny. Indeed, it’s much like the bad penny we now get from the U.S. Mint – worthless zinc with attractive, shiny copper plating.
If the Universal Basic Income idea really gets going and smashes into the single-payer health care idea, the collision will leave American society a total wreck.
Americans will be turned into beggars and thieves.
We’ll all be panhandlers squatting on the curb of the political avenue, rattling our tin cups at our elected officials to bum more spare change off the government.
And we’ll be worse than that. We’ll be robbers, too.
Democracy gives us the gun and the mask for the mugging. The majority of people are always of comparatively modest means. As a majority, we can vote to make our means less modest by stealing everything we can from other Americans.
There are plenty of good practical and ideological arguments against single-payer health care and Universal Basic Income.
But I don’t intend to make them.
Men and women who are smarter and more politically savvy than I am will (I hope) do that for me. Instead, I’d like to tell a story…
What $1,000 a Month Would Have Bought Me
This might be the story of my life if there had been a Universal Basic Income of $1,000 a month when I was 21…
I was a rotten person in my youth. I was the kind of loud and obnoxious anti-war protestor who, by my dress, speech, and behavior, actually increased support for the Vietnam War among America’s “silent majority.” In fact, I myself, personally, probably prolonged the Vietnam War by several months.
I was not only a left-wing agitator… I was also a hippie/beatnik/bohemian worthless human being.
Then I ran out of grad school fellowship grants and my folks ran out of patience with paying my bills. So I had to get a job.
The pay was $150 a week. I was to be paid every two weeks. I was eagerly looking forward to my check for $300 (as was my landlord).
But when payday came, I found that after withholdings for federal, state, and city income tax, Social Security, health insurance payments, and pension plan contributions, I netted about $160.
I’d been struggling for years to achieve socialism in America only to discover that we had it already.
What with the job, I was too busy to be involved with left-wing causes anymore.
And truthfully, all causes are boring. They’re a way of making yourself part of something bigger and more exciting, which guarantees that small, tedious selves are what a cause will attract. Plus, I liked my job. I was finding my job to be as big and exciting a thing as my own small, tedious self could handle.
And I had begun to notice something else about left-wing causes. Radical leftists claim to seek what no one claims to want. The “collective” has been tried in every conceivable form from the primitively tribal to the powerfully Soviet, and “the people” who are thus collectivized immediately choose any available alternative, whether it’s getting drunk on Indian reservations or getting shot climbing the Berlin Wall.
My aging hippie friends were boring, too. They continued to be convinced that everything was going to be shared soon, so they hadn’t gotten jobs. They hadn’t gotten married either, although wives were the one thing that did seem to be getting shared. Occasionally they had kids. These children, though provided with remarkable freedom from discipline and conformity, didn’t seem to give much thanks for it, or ever say thanks, or please, or even “How are you?”
My friends were living the lives of unfettered bohemian artists. Except the lack of fetters seemed to tie them to rent-controlled dumps on New York’s Lower East Side. And where was the art?
If I’d had a UBI, I could have afforded to live this life forever. And I could have afforded all the drink and drugs the life entailed. No, worse… I could have afforded much more to drink and far stronger drugs.
The short version of the story of my life if there had been a Universal Basic Income of $1,000 a month when I turned 21 is… I’d be dead. And you’d be glad of it. – P.J. O’Rourke
Now here’s what we’re reading…
Our national debt is nearing World War II highs… And it’s going to get much, much worse.
“This situation is unsustainable as I think we all know, and represents a dire threat to our economic and national security.”
A sign that the crypto market is maturing? Bitcoin up about 35% in the past week…
“The goal here is to have rules of the road that protect consumers without trying to squash innovation.”
If cash disappears, where will national banks turn… One answer: “Digital currencies” are gaining traction in Sweden, the nation at the forefront of the cashless trend.
The central bank is considering whether there’s a need for an official form of digital currency, an e-krona…
But please don’t buy Venezuela’s strange oil, gas, gold, and diamond-linked cryptocurrency…
Venezuela’s worthless currency has struggled to keep up with quadruple-figure inflation that values the highest-denominated bill (100,000 bolivars) at just 50 cents.
And one of the most important stories from our February issue of American Consequences. Did you read it?
“You want me to tell the story of my biggest investing failure… to a room full of investors in a private meeting at the New York Stock Exchange?”
And let us know what you’re reading at [email protected].
With P.J. O’Rourke and the American Consequences Editorial Staff
February 21, 2018