Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November 23, 2010

     I remember someone, years ago in The Village Voice, lamenting that breaking up with his current girl friend would hurt just as much as breaking up with his last one. "Oh man," he wrote, "I dig the pain ahead."  I hope the rest of us can do that too.  We'll probably need to, this coming spring. 
   Because we keep spending more than we rake in, Congress will need to extend the limit on the national debt this spring.  Paul Krugman in the New York Times this week quotes former Senator Alan Simpson, co-chair of a special commission on deficit reduction, "I can't wait for the blood bath in April...We've got guys who won't approve the debt limit extension unless we give 'em a piece of meat, real meat" (meaning spending cuts). "And boy, the blood bath will be extraordinary."  He's probably right.
     It's not impossible to balance the federal budget.  Bill Clinton, I think, did it twice.  But run a surplus?  Oh wow.
     Congress would have to do really unpopular things:  raise the retirement age to seventy, say. so Social Security payments would start later;  cut the size of those payments;  cut Medicare;  cut defense spending.  Real stuff.  Or they could do nothing and watch the dollar collapse and the U.S. turn into a modern version of Germany's between-the-wars Weimar Republic, where shoppers hauled wheelbarrows of cash to the store to buy lunch.
     We really are going to have to cut, or else.  How many people will that hurt? Shouldn't it hurt everyone of us?
     Oh man, I dig the pain ahead.

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