Monday, May 10, 2010

Is the Tooth Fairy Dead?

Thomas Friedman says so. (Thanks to Jill Miller Zimon for linking to this over on Facebook.)

For an eye-opening discussion of the US national debt and what it may take to dig out from under it, I recommend David M. Walker's book, Comeback America.

I watched the BBC coverage of the British elections, first online and then on CSPAN, this past Thursday evening. Commentators indicated that whoever finally heads a coalition government in the UK may, if they do their work well, consign their parties to opposition status for some time to come. That's because all the parties acknowledge that grim, unpopular measures are needed to salvage a British economy that is falling ever more deeply into paralyzing debt. The new government will have to officially announce, in Friedman's terms, that the Tooth Fairy is dead.

A similar, if less immediately dire, prospect faces the US president who dares to say that our national debt is unsustainable. If the federal government is to continue doing what the American people say they want the government to do, changes must come. That means cutting expenditures and it means increasing taxes.

At least that's Walker's message in his readable, credible book. (And as an appointee of both Republican and Democratic presidents who has dealt with the federal budget for years, he has earned a hearing.)

Presidents and members of Congress don't like cutting back on programs or increasing taxes because the people who vote for them don't like them, even as the latter scream for fiscal responsibility.

The President who pronounces the US Tooth Fairy's death (or hastens her demise), may turn out to be a hero of history--returning the government to solvency, restoring the health of the US economy, providing Social Security, Medicare, and other benefits to people who really need them, and getting the country out from under indebtedness to the Chinese government, among other things--but also incur the wrath of contemporary voters.

The people who will be served best by the eradication of our national debt are our grandchildren. They may one day be grateful to the courageous president and Congress who put the policies in place that lead to solvency. But the problem for any pols courageous enough to slay the debt dragon is that our grandchildren can't vote.

The bottom line is that the Tooth Fairy really is dead, we're living in denial, and it's long past the time for us to finally wake up.

No comments: