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President, Congress Ignoring survival instincts for nation

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Charles McElwee Charles McElwee

McElwee, a lawyer in Charleston, is with the firm Robinson & McElwee PLLC. The view expressed is his own.

In her Oct. 6 New York Times column, Maureen Dowd imagined the U.S. capital in 2084 as a place of total misery and wretchedness and an ensuing darkness that will devour the rest of the country. 

In her gloomy portrayal, police are not getting paid, federal funds have shriveled, the government has shut down, fanatics are barricading themselves in the Capitol, the country has defaulted on payment of its sovereign debt and China is moving quickly to fill the gap caused by our weakness.

These prophetic economic calamities and breakdowns in law and order that will beset America in late century are not incredible or improbable. Dowd's reasons, however, for her predicted 2084 crisis are wholly implausible and crudely farcical. 

In explaining in 2084 who was at fault in 2013 for her predicted national tragedies, Dowd engaged in a Halloween spoof by having a father tell his son that it was the Grand Old Party.  The Republicans, the father said, had become infected with a "mutant form of ideology" known as "the Sarahcuda Strain after the earliest carrier," which decreased their "brain function" and caused them to ignore "their basic survival instincts." 

Dowd obviously did not do her homework before she wrote her baseless op-ed that attributes fault to the wrong culprits for having caused her predicted national economic debacle in the year 2084.  An oxymoron lurks here.

It is not the Republicans whose ideology about fiscal responsibility mutated or whose basic survival instincts were ignored in 2013, as Dowd claims.

Rather, it is President Barack Obama whose ideology about deficit spending and national debt has mutated. It is President Obama and his party colleagues in the U.S. Congress who refuse to acknowledge, against what should be their survival instincts for the nation, that their non-negotiable, extravagant spending of borrowed dollars is unsustainable and will ultimately destroy the United States. 

Seven years ago, in 2006, then-Sen. Obama is reported as having said: "Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership.  America deserves better. 

"I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America's debt limit."

Because of President Obama's mutation on fiscal responsibility since 2006, it is now plausible to have him say: "I am shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren.

"America has no debt problem and no failure of leadership.  America could not be better.  I am, and will continue to be, opposed to any effort to limit America's debt."

In 2006, President Obama was speaking in terms of what is in the interest of the nation and what is necessary for the United States to survive in the longer term. 

He is speaking today in terms of what is in the interest of his much narrower voter-constituency, largely the older entitlement generation,  and what is necessary to protect their interest in order to keep them voting as he and his party would lead them. Survival for that living constituency yes, but not for their descendants who will be overcome by their ancestors' debts. 

Thomas Friedman, in his Oct. 15 NYT column, is "Johnny on the Spot," when needed. Titled "Sorry, Kids. We Ate It All," Friedman's article observes that whether today's young people "realize it or not, they're the ones who will really get hit by all the cans we're kicking down the road."  For them, today's Facebook generation, "the cupboard will be largely bare if current taxes and entitlement promises are not reformed." And yet, they, "the most affected if we don't think long term," have not been a part of any mass movement to demand that the present generation leave something for them.

Friedman suggests that young people may be beginning to pay attention, led by such well-known people as Geoffrey Canada, the president of the Harlem's Children's Zone, who, among others, is urging "future seniors to start a movement to protect their interest." (I suggest that the "movement" also include the mothers of these future seniors.") 

In speaking to crowds of students at various colleges and universities, Canada relates that "we have made a promise to all of our children (at the Harlem Children's Zone): You play by the rules … we will get you into college and on your way … toward a future of financial security."  

But then, according to Friedman, Canada adds, "the current spending on my generation— I'm 61 — if it continues unabated, will erase any chance my children will have the safety net of social, education and health services they will need. It seems deeply offensive to me that we will be asking these poor children from Harlem to subsidize a generation that is, by and large, more well-off than they are, and then leave them deeply indebted in an America that had eaten the seed corn of the next generation."

Had Dowd read and studied the Congressional Budget Office's "2013 Long-Term Budget Outlook" ("CBO") released some two weeks before her Oct. 6 publication, she would have learned that the CBO projects that in the year 2084, the federal debt held by the public will have soared to about 225 percent of the projected gross domestic product of the United States, compared to about 73 percent today, and about 55 percent when President Obama first took the office.

In terms of dollars, the total federal debt when President Obama took the office in January 2009 was about $10.6 trillion and today is approximately $16.7 trillion.

The CBO in that same September 2013 report stated that the soaring federal debt is not sustainable and will increase the probability of a federal crisis in the United States. 

These are the real reasons for Dowd's dire prophecies for the United States in 2084. 

Acknowledgements:  Having always been a registered Democrat, I intend to re-register as an independent.  I, too, have mutated over the years.