The Free Lunch Revisited

It probably won’t come as news to anyone that members of Congress are currently embroiled in an effort to approve a bill to raise the U.S. debt. This unfolding event has all the outward drama and intrigue of a TV soap opera. (CNN news story link) To add to the drama the U.S. Treasury has given Congress until August 2, 2011 to agree on the debt we as Americans will assume and share with countless future generations. Our debt now consumes roughly 70 percent of the annual U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). A few short years ago the U.S. debt accounted for “only” 40 percent of annual GDP. As a comparison, Greece’s current debt hovers at 125 percent of GDP.

Okay, why do we accept government overspending in the first place? Why are the members of Congress and the Executive Branch somehow exempt and not held accountable? Every U.S. citizen knows the consequences of irresponsible money management: deteriorating credit scores, bankruptcy, home foreclosure, loss of job, fines and penalties – even jail time.

Conversely, the average American citizen is held to the standard of total financial accountability and responsibility. Americans are expected to work, pay our bills on time and be responsible with our credit and spending. If we fail, then any of the aforementioned consequences are a dead certainty. Few surprises await us if we do not abide by these rules.

So then what are the consequences for Congress and the Executive Branch who abuse the system and drive us ever deeper into debt? None. Zero. Zip. Nada. Yes, our elected representatives have meticulously constructed a system of laws that empower them to effectively mortgage our future and to overspend with money we’ve yet to earn. That’s truly a ‘double standard’ in my book.

Add to this the fact that the typical member of Congress receives a lot of job perks too. These perks include things like special health care plans, exclusive investment and retirement plans, real estate and trip write offs and much more. You and I fund all this of course. Since many of those in Congress are also attorneys it seems pretty clear the intent of these individuals was to feather their bed by creating laws that give them unlimited terms and benefits that go beyond what is typically found in the private sector.

So what’s the bottom line here? I think we are prime for a complete overhaul of the tax system in the U.S. We also need to change how Legislators and government officials are compensated and how many terms they can serve. Entitlement programs and foreign aid should be given equal scrutiny and overhauled as well. I’m convinced that if the U.S. government was run in many ways like a corporation we’d see far less waste and we’d not find ourselves swimming in debt. We would also see innovation and greater prosperity return.

There will be those who will say this goal is not reasonable or obtainable. But I think it is, and a new course of action is preferable, sustainable and necessary. We can certainly live without the ‘Double Standard’. Neither do we need the staggering debt that is being piled on the U.S. taxpayer and future generations of Americans. Those in political office love to sell us on the idea there is a ‘free lunch’ for everyone – including themselves. You simply need to ask for it. But the ‘free lunch’ has never been real – we all ultimately pay the bill. Time is running out and we’re just fooling ourselves if we believe someone else is willing to pick up the tab.

Posted in July 2011 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments