Today is the day that income tax filings are due here in the states. I've always found it ironic that it follows closely on the heels of St. Patrick's Day. One day dedicated to the wearing of the green, the other to taking it away from you.
During the Bush administration a number of my democratic friends bemoaned the out of control spending orgy going on in Washington. Too much of your money was being spent on frivolous things. The war aside, Bush was a bad financial steward of the country they argued. They were right. Liberals at the time could credibly claim that they had done a much better job under Clinton. This was true but deceptive. Clinton's fiscal restraint was helped by an uncooperative Republican controlled Congress (who was in turn kept in check by the threat of a Clinton veto). Thanks to divided government, cutting the defense budget in half, and spending every nickel they could from the social security surplus (anybody remember Al Gore's implicit criticism of this when he called for the "lock-box"?) the budget was balanced for the first time in my life. It was a major political accomplishment, driven in large part by voter outrage over out of control spending.
Today the federal government is engaged in a spending spree of literally unprecedented scale. If we continue on this course, W will be remembered as the last fiscally responsible President. This graphic sums it up nicely:
Remember, whatever you think of Bush and his policies, his deficits were run up fighting two major wars, giving free prescription drugs to seniors, and (partially) funding no child left behind. Whether these things were worth doing or not is something reasonable people can disagree about. They are however, the normal sort of big ticket items that governments spend a lot on: wars and social programs. This stands in sharp contrast to what Obama is doing. In an effort to stabilize markets (or take control of them, depending on your ideological bent) he's pouring money into the economy in a way that is largely without precedent.
Stimulus packages have been done before of course. Historically they have been political exercises to demonstrate to the nation that Washington cares and is trying to "do something". The fact that the vast majority of economists think they are a complete wast of money is beside the point. It makes people feel good and gets politicians names in the paper for something other than an indictment or having sex with an aide.
If previous stimulus packages were too small to change things (Michelle Obama was quite correct when she mocked the Bush stimulus as being meaningless), Obama's spending is so out of control it will likely cripple our economy for the remainder of my lifetime (I'm 38). Obama has been President for...what ...90 days? In that time, between bailouts and stimulus he's essentially taken trillions of dollars of your money and set it on fire. Results have been meager and and the costs have been jaw dropping. Above and beyond our existing debt obligations:
• If you’re a 50-year old-with a college degree, you will pay approximately $81,000 over your working life just to pay the interest on the debt in the Obama budget.
• If you’re a 40-year-old, you’ll pay $132,000.
• And if you’re a 20-year-old, just starting out after college, you will pay a whopping $114,000 just to service the interest on the debt created by the Obama budget.
Add to that the impending implosion of both social security and medicare. Basically we as a nation are at the point where we're getting new credit cards and taking cash advances, just to make the minimum payments on our other credit cards. It needs to stop. Now.
Across the country today there are a number of protests going on. If you're as outraged as I am by what's going on in Washington, go to one. Make yourself heard. Tell them your mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.