Time to Grow Up

This is a post about economics, but it will probably sound more political than most.  Part of being mature is learning to live within boundaries.  No, not everything is possible.  Immature people like Bush II, Obama, JFK, and FDR tell us that we can have our cake and eat it too.  It is not an uncommon positions for assume, particularly when they can use a particularly large cohort of workers as a tool to sap revenue from, while not retaining the funds for retirement benefits.

That said, I can look at the past and be a critic.  That’s easy, there have been real jerks that have milked our society, and retained a good name, though they robbed the future to pay the past.  It is criminal what municipal politicians have done, hiding behind high assumed investment assumptions, supported by brain-dead consultants who assumed markets are magic, and always provide high returns.

But there are enough targets in the present.  The evil party, the Democrats, ignore the long run effects of their deficits, and ignore the entitlements crisis that will engulf the nation.  The stupid party, the Republicans, rolled over for the idiocies of Bush II, and ignored the long term effects of debts and entitlements.

But there is a new force of anger, the t-party.  And that is about all they have, is anger.  They want their taxes reduced, but don’t want large entitlement programs reduced, or defense.  They represent small-minded libertarianism.  I am an economic libertarian, but I recognize that my views mean real pain for many in the short run, though I think those policies will be best for all in the long run.

There was a real loss in our nation when we abandoned the idea that national budgets needed to be balanced.  It brings out the worst in politicians when they think money is free, and they can engage in the basest demagoguery with no cost.  As it is today, we would probably be better off electing our politicians via random selection.

I have no sympathy for the t-party.  If you only have economic interests, and aren’t willing to take stands on broader ethical questions, you do not deserve to be our rulers.  Government is ethical as a rule, and the most important questions are what behaviors we encourage and discourage in our society.

I have a further concerns.  Leaders should not be merely facile rhetoricians, but should be genuinely mature.  I cringe listening to the t-party endorsed politicians, because they aren’t mature enough to rule.  If you can’t control what you say, and how you say it, you don’t have enough control over yourself to be one who promotes order in society.

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I wrote the above three weeks ago and sat on it.  After writing it, I said to myself, “This is not one of your better works, are you going to say that?”  After review, I am saying this with full conviction.  Most t-party candidates are not ready for prime time.

Take Sarah Palin as an example. Sarah Palin is a bad joke.  If she is such a good Evangelical Christian woman, why is she not at home taking care of her young children, particularly the one with Down Syndrome.  Or, why was she occupied with Alaska politics at a time when she should have been there for her daughter Bristol, who was about to make some very bad decisions.

Feminism has no place in Christianity.  Men are to lead, not women.  Go home, Sarah.  Homeschool your children, if you can. I would not say this to a woman outside the Church, but since you claim to be one of the disciples of Christ, I say it to you.

I say this as a leader in the Church, ordained by the elders of my presbytery, in a Bible-believing church.  There is no good that comes from neglecting your own home to address the problems of the nation.  Sarah Palin is no Deborah.  Deborah was wise, and Sarah Palin is not.

I fear God more than I care about the political direction of this country.  As the Apostle Paul said, “Shall we do evil, that good may come?”  Paul spoke rhetorically, saying that we should do what is right, regardless of the results.  There is no good that comes from trying to save society, when our own house is not in order.

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I could talk about the other t-party candidates and their idiocies.  Time would fail me.  I am in favor of a brainy libertarianism and Biblical morality, rather than a brain-dead libertarianism, and appeals to general morality.

The most pressing and immediate economic problem is this: we are facing a funding crisis for all of the promises made by governments and corporations regarding retiree employee benefits.  Every day I see more articles about the pain municipalities are going through over funding pensions, with occasional pension strengthening from corporations.

The sins of past governments, making promises that could not easily be fulfilled, or, at least fairly funded in the short run, are coming home to roost.  Funding issues for all levels of government are rising.  It doesn’t matter if you have met the budget this year, however you have done it.  Next year will be worse, because the assets will not throw off enough income to satisfy the liabilities over the intermediate-term, across the whole nation.

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We go to the polls in the US today, but no one dares talk about the funding crisis.  They talk of tax cuts or protecting benefits, while at the same time the economic decay continues, where debt grows, and ability to repay it declines.

It is a sad state of affairs, and indeed, I despair over it.  I love my nation, though I do not support its wars or its economic foolishness.  Unlike what Reagan said, America is not the last best hope of man on Earth, rather it is the God-man Jesus Christ, to whom we must all eventually answer.

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If I have a fault economically, it is that I look to the long-term.  For me, it is Heaven, though on Earth it is what will happen to my great-grandchildren and beyond.  Our policies are slanted to the present, and will force those who are younger to pay far more than they ought to pay, because they will be carrying the profligacy of the Baby Boomers.

No party is seriously looking at the future funding crisis.  There are little hints among the municipalities that are the worst running into problems now.  Those problems will only grow, and spread.  The problems in the unfunded Federal plans will be a plague in their time.

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This is an unusual post for me, prompted partly by the elections, because I don’t think anyone from an economic standpoint is addressing the real problems that we are facing.  Mere politics prevails for now, with fine-sounding but empty words telling the electorate that they will be restored to prosperity.

There are bigger forces in play here.  Consider my old piece, Rethinking Comparable Worth; as it stands, less skilled labor in the US should see wage declines as the rest of the world becomes more competitive.  Unskilled labor is not scarce. Skilled labor is somewhat scarce. Good ideas are scarce.  Real capital is scarce, but financial capital is not scarce.  Commodities vary in scarcity.

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I see this as a time for the US to “grow up,” and see that there are no easy solutions, but that it will take shared sacrifice to preserve our nation.  Taxes will have to rise while benefits are cut.  Keynesians will scream, but the average person in the US will see it as fair, because they know that everything must be paid for; there is no free lunch.

10 Comments

  • hippoicthus says:

    A thought-provoking post. Thanks, David.

    If the t-partiers were to get their wishes granted and cut taxation without touching spending, where would you stand on the antinomian question?

  • “Feminism has no place in Christianity. Men are to lead, not women.”

    David – I just lost a lot of respect for you.

    And if not strictly limited to church & family, but in all aspects of modern life (“Go home, Sarah.”), then I take back all good wishes I thought when reading about your new business.

    And this from someone who agrees with the rest of your comments, and thinks Sarah Palin and her ilk are damaging to this country.

  • JoshK says:

    I agree w/you on a lot of issues, but I don’t think it’s fair to assume that Palin’s family and situation w/Bristol would be OK if Palin wasn’t in politics. Who knows what would have happened?

    IMHO there is a large part of the t-party that is ready to make some serious sacrafices with entitlements. Maybe a minority is ready for SS reform, but a majority is ready to take on the defined benefit plans and that’s 1-2t right there.

  • John says:

    Thanks for saying that.

  • amccabe says:

    Evil? That seems like an unthoughtful choice of words.

    • Um, I did not design the moniker “evil party” for the Democrats. That’s a pretty common nickname for them, as is “stupid party” for the Republicans. I’ve heard those many times in many places before I uttered those phrases.

      • amccabe says:

        I had never heard that expression before… Sorry, I was wrong and clearly misinterpreted you.

        I really dislike the expression, now that I’m familiar with it. I’ve managed to disagree with a number of people without calling them evil :)

  • Dave says:

    Hey, you’re brave. A conservative speaking out against Palin?? How refreshing. Unfortunately conservative Christians seem unable to fathom the possibility that God’s ways work better. Just because a person says a lot of right things in bright ways… does that mean they should be our next president??? Not all articulate people espousing moral values should lead us.
    I’ve got myself into some uncomfortably hot water by saying this publicly in church. It was when Palin was generating her first excitement back when chosen by McCain. She was just starting to get popular, and it wasn’t a good thing to be opposed among conservative Christians. (I guess it still isn’t.) Since then I’ve said little. Thanks for being brave. Palin may be a fine lady, but shame on American men for defaulting to fine women like her.
    Brazil has now made a big mistake — for many reasons — by electing a woman president. But that’s a different story.

  • sysin3 says:

    “I like your Christ very much, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” — Mahatma Gandhi

    “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” — Thomas Jefferson

    “I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology.” — Thomas Jefferson

  • Sysin3 — Sorry, the Bible is an accurate document. If you did the research, you would find that out. Try the book “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses,” by Richard Bauckham, or “Evidence that Demands a Verdict,” by Josh McDowell. Two excellent books that if you are truly open-minded, you will read.

    amccabe — I don’t mean evil in a vitriolic way, nor stupid. It’s just that the Democrats tear apart common morality frequently, and the Republicans never seem to get things right — they just give into business interests and give the Democrats most of what they want.

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