Today I’m going to come as close to political as I ever do in this blog. You’ve been warned. If it’s going to annoy you, you may leave now.
This election has swirled around a lot of crazy things, starting with “War on women” a concept that might as well have been invented by a Martian with no understanding of human psychology or anatomy. I can just imagine the march on the women’s towns, guns blazing… I can, unless I realize that most men love or at least like women, and that women are not an army of same-minded robots. Then there was the war on Big Bird and finally the rather ridiculous injunction to vote for revenge – though what in heavens name requires revenge no one knows. Of course human nature being what it is, all of us can come up with several reasons to seek revenge on several people. We are none of us never wronged, and we, all of us, tend to see the wrongs against us as a much greater injustice than those we commit against others. This appeal to humans’ baser instincts might be effective. It is also a recipe for every man against every other.
My grandmother used to say “A house where bread is scarce, it’s every man’s hand against the other.” Bread isn’t scarce in America, save in the areas ravaged by Sandy, where we are seeing once again how centralized operations do a magnificent job for the little guy on the ground – by which I mean they are hungry, cold and in the dark.
However, I am here to tell you that we are broke. Not only are we broke, we are stone cold broke. No, unlike the belief of the hopeful diarist at DU the other day, this doesn’t just mean we can print more money. If you think that, you’ve confused the thing with the symbol.
If you print more money in an economy that is not generating more goods, you just make the price of goods go up. This is known as inflation. It devours the substance of those who have saved by making that saved money worth less; it makes us an undesirable borrower; in its extreme instances it makes it impossible for industries to accumulate capital for investment and expansion.
In fact, that’s what we’ve been doing for a good while now, and how we’ve got in the trouble we’re in.
So, we are broke. Our country is broke, our cities are broke, our states are broke too – though broke might be too kind a word to explain the state of California. We need another word Uber-broke, perhaps.
But why are we broke, you say? Aren’t we the richest nation in the world? Didn’t we put a man on the moon?
Yes. We put a man on the moon with intense concentrated effort that was – at the time – suited to a governmental push. (These days, with new tech, I pin my hopes on private space programs.)
Yes, we’re very rich, both in material and in terms of human capital. That means nothing. Some of the countries with most resources in the world are the most miserable. Venezuela comes to mind. The reverse is also true. Think of Singapore or Japan.
We are broke for the reason nations go broke: we forgot that everything has a price. We forgot this both individually and collectively.
Collectively we forgot that our wealth was finite and that everything we did meant something else didn’t get done. We empowered tremendous bureaucracies to do things like wage war on poverty, which might be even crazier than war on women, because at least we know what women look like while poverty and the definition of poverty changes from area to area and from decade to decade. Of course that was not all we did. We’ve had many many wars against wraiths and phantoms. We’ve gone to war against drugs – for instance – by which we mean a war against drug use, which is an individual behavior. We’ve gone to war against racism – not just the expression of racism, which would still be repugnant as it violates freedom of expression – but thoughts of racism. We’ve gone to war against illiteracy. We’ve gone to war … I could list it forever.
Never mind. All that money that got channeled into these programs – minus the 90% that went to feed and clothe and retire the bureaucrats who were front line soldiers in these wars – didn’t go to expanding the economy. It didn’t go towards colonies on Mars. It didn’t go towards the development of new agricultural methods. It didn’t go towards whatever purpose the people who earned it would have put it to.
But at least we’ve been successful, right? The poor are no longer with us. Oh? Not really? I see.
One of the things that money hasn’t gone to is to have kids and raise kids. As the mother of two I’m here to tell the rest of you it’s one heck of an economic sink hole. My husband and I, even when we’re both making decent money have times of barely scraping by. Kids have open expenses: clothes, food, schooling, health. They also have hidden expenses: without kids, Dan and I would be living in half the house, and probably in a more urban and cheaper setting. Kids pushed us to the more expensive neighborhood, where they’d be safe playing in the yard.
Most people simply can’t afford kids. And those who can, by working two jobs, don’t see the point of having kids for strangers to raise.
And therein comes how, individually, we forgot that everything has a cost. Back in the fifties the idea of negotiated pensions and comfortable retirements must have seemed great. Heck, it seems great to me. Given a chance I’d bargain to have my publisher promise to pay my upkeep for thirty years or so at the end of my productive life.
No one is offering me that bargain, because my employers must make the money they pay.
And again, here comes the rub. If you thought “so do all employers” you forgot that a lot of people work for the government. The government doesn’t make money. It can only confiscate it from those who make it. As such, it can lose touch with what is reasonable to promise employees.
Yesterday I found myself listening to one side of a conversation with someone who wants to vote in a way that will assure she can retire at fifty with her pension because she was promised, and 10% has been taken out of her paycheck her entire working life.
Well, yeah. And I want a pony and a magic unicorn.
The money isn’t there. The state in question is stone cold broke. We can argue till the cows come home about where the money went or if it was a good idea. Most of it went up some government’s hole and got lost in the gigantic game of bureaucratic pass-around. What it got nominally used for is irrelevant. As is whose fault it is.
The money isn’t there. And part of the reason it isn’t there is that all these programs, union or not, private or public depended on one thing: More people. In the early twentieth century, everyone knew that every generation would be bigger than the last. It is baked in all the sf books, even Heinlein’s.
Except we made it hard to have and raise children. And it didn’t happen.
The multitudes that were supposed to keep us safe and warm in retirement aren’t there. (This also has an adverse effect on investment but that’s something else again.) The money we paid in was spent on the current generation of older people.
Importing a whole lot of illiterate or uneducated immigrants won’t solve this problem. Their wealth creating ability is limited.
Which is when you must step back and examine things. SHOULD you have guaranteed retirement pensions for twenty, thirty years of your life? Why? And don’t tell me you paid into it and you’re entitled. Why are you? Other generations weren’t. And just because you paid into a Ponzi scheme that promised you a return of several billion, doesn’t mean you’re entitled to get it. Not even if you were forced to pay. It just means things suck and life isn’t fair. (My generation by and large never expected to be paid social security. Apparently we were more credulous about other plans.)
Look at it realistically: How much does a thirty year vacation cost? Why should you have it if we’re broke? Aren’t there bigger needs for that money? More importantly, doesn’t each individual family have bigger needs and know them better.
This applies not just to retirement, but to everything the government is promising us: free health care, free child care (what do you think schools are anymore?), free this, free that, and a pony on top.
What you have to ask yourself is “where is the money going to come from?”
No one is lending to us anymore. We’re printing money and lending to ourselves. This is sort of like cutting off your leg and making a roast. That money is devaluing the money in every saving account throughout the land. It’s making all of us poorer.
But then, if we’re broke, don’t we need free healthcare? And free contraceptives? And free— Do I want people to die?
I’m all for free everything. What, you think I’m stupid? I’m no more industrious than the average person. Okay, I like writing, so I’d probably still write if I won the lottery, but I promise you I’d also spend a lot of time listening to music, reading, and walking around in pleasant surroundings. I’d love to have stuff just fall in my lap. And I want all my friends to have free stuff too. Most of them work way too hard.
BUT EVERYTHING HAS A COST. LISTEN TO ME. EVERYTHING HAS A COST.
Where is the free stuff going to come from if we’re broke? No, don’t tell me rich people should pay more. Most of us have some idea of the imaginary rich person with a money bin like Uncle Scrooge’s. I’m fairly sure government employees think that way too.
It’s not true. Most rich people invest their money. They start companies. They invest in other companies. The money is in motion. Yes, they still live very well but… here’s the sad news: if you confiscated all of their money – all the money of everyone making over say 100k, ALL OF IT, you’d run our country for a couple of months. And that’s at present rate. Forget giving out more free stuff. Also, if you tax rich people and companies to the hilt, they move. France is learning this now. (The countries who’ve made it illegal for the rich and businesses to leave, like… oh, North Korea, for some reason don’t get richer. Go figure.)
And if we consumed all that in a grand spree, after that we’d be even more broke, because there would be no money for investments.
Look, guys, it’s none of our faults. Most of the policies that led to this were created a LONG time ago. Some of them – the Universal Rights Of Man – were spearheaded by the Soviet Union as a weapon against the free world. Marxism has been distorting the minds of people longer than any of us have been alive.
It was the idea that wealth is finite, fostered by Marxists, that led to policies that discouraged having children, because children were viewed as a drain, not as wealth creators. (Yes, every human is a wealth creator in potential. When there were only a dozen humans in the world, they were all much poorer. If that’s counterintuitive to you, you must study real economics.)
The best things in life aren’t free, not unless the best things in life are air, whatever water you can find, and the occasional lame squirrel. Everything must be paid for in money, or in what money represents: work, effort, knowledge and yes, blood, sweat and tears. As for the “But France has a pony” argument – yes, other countries have “free” healthcare and stuff. It is free for them because they were willing to stifle their development and innovation and, yes, their population. It still worked, because we do this thing called Foreign Aid. This is where we bought France a pony. And we stood by to keep other kids from stealing her pony.
That is not just crazy, but it’s also on the way out because – again, guys, from the top: we are broke!
This means when all those
kids er… countries for whom we’ve been buying candy and toys don’t get them, they’re going to get mad at us.
Because of this, though I disapprove of adventurism abroad, the only program I’d keep is defense. We must be ready to keep what we have, little though it is. And we must build more. And we must spank anyone who tries to attack us quickly, effectively and without remorse. And then we must come home and work.
The time of walking around waging war on FOREIGN poverty is gone too.
When government offers you free stuff while at the same time demanding you pay taxes on the penalty of jail, all it’s doing is taking your money, removing its cut, then giving it back to you. (“Nice economy you got here, shame…”) Which means in the end you’re poorer, but bureaucrats have more power.
Of course, perhaps that’s what you want. Perhaps you want to vote for revenge. One thing that free government stuff is good at is killing people. What am I talking about? Oh, from guaranteed income (yes, it’s been tried) that let people spiral into depression and addiction, to well… free health care where they make the decision of what the treatment will be and you have no say, to the “free contraceptives” in the Soviet Union, which, in the end, were JUST free abortions performed in substandard conditions, because the Soviet Union was so broke it could not produce enough condoms, let alone anything more sophisticated. (Or where did you think everyone adopted from Russia came from?)
Perhaps you’re making a calculation that the people before us got all the good stuff, and if their life is shortened a little, there will be more stuff for us. It’s sort of a rational decision, except that the maw of government rarely gives back that which it devours. You too will eventually be caught by the bear, after you throw the baby from the sleigh. But … it’s a strategy. Immoral and possibly imprudent, but it will give you “revenge.”
But if that’s not what you want, think carefully before you vote for free stuff. There is no free stuff. Everything that involves the work, effort or knowledge of others must be paid for. Either out of your own pocket or out of the pocket of others – which in the end makes us all poorer because that money isn’t used for mega-squid farms and colonies on Mars.
Yes, you were promised. Sorry. They lied to you. They can continue to lie, but things will only get worse. You might think you’re saving yourself at the expense of future generations, but unless you’re VERY OLD now, you won’t die before the collapse comes. At the rate we are going, you’ll be around when all the free stuff stops because there IS NO MONEY. Only you’ll be older and less able to cope.
Better to rip off the bandaid now. Prioritize those who need to be taken care of – say those over sixty – and let the rest of us build at least a very little head of steam before the time comes we can’t work. Me? I’ll be here at eighty with my hands on the keyboard.
And if your goal isn’t revenge on past generations – when you go to the polls, remember that we are broke. Whatever they promise you, those are just promises. Like money printed out of nothing, it means nothing.
You can choose to embrace sanity now, or it will surely be forced on you later, at great cost in blood, sweat and tears.
There is no cake. The cake is a lie. We’ve come to the end of cake.