There are many calls for fiscal austerity these days. I'm all for fiscal austerity. I like saving a buck or two. I wish our government did. However, now is exactly the wrong time for them to do so. Republicans are leading the charge for strict budgetary measures. I'd love to support them. Here is why I won't:
We're just coming out of a terrible recession. The economy is shaky at best. Now is precisely when you want your government priming the pump with cash. Let's fix some roads, or better still upgrade some rail lines for alternative transportation as gas prices continue their inevitable march higher. Let's put some people to work and give them paychecks that they can then spend on goods made (one can hope, can't one?) by other Americans. Instead, when the economy is teetering and unemployment is high already, there are calls to slash the U.S. budget.
See, the time to do that is when times are good, like five or six years ago. Where were all the Deficit Hawk Republicans then? Well, they were in Congress, spending our money like drunken sailors. Don't get me wrong, I hate the Democrats too, but at least they are consistent about wanting to tax and spend. It's the Republicans who are suddenly two-faced about it, acting as if they are the guardians of the purse strings. They spent years spending gobs of money, deficit-spending their fool heads off when they controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. Now they think it's a good time to pretend to want to scale back, so they can gain political advantage by making the Democrats look like irresponsible spenders.
The truth is, they're all irresponsible spenders. Not a one of 'em can be trusted with a dollar in their pocket. The truth also is that despite the fact that we've been wrongly spending money that we don't have for decades, now is not the time to put a kink in the hose. Let's see some sustained job growth. Let's see tax revenues increase. Then let's talk about some spending cuts and tax increases. Yes, both of those things will be needed to put this financial crack house we've built back in order.
But no, when the economy gets going again in earnest, politicians will either see pie-in-the-sky economic predictions as a license to mortgage our future further, or say that we can't risk cooling off the economy when it's humming along. Of course there will be risk involved in spending less and taking in more. We may miss some boom times in favor of some moderately okay times. But wouldn't that be better than strangling a weak economy back into recession or worse? It’s like your mother told you, or should have: Save your money for a rainy day. But the time to do that is when it’s sunny, not when there is a blizzard.
Didn't we do this once, like in the late 30's? I seem to recall that there were calls to end all of the New Deal programs because the economy was beginning to improve. So they yanked all the funding for that stuff, and it took World War II to get our economy going again. Maybe we could use a good war! Oh, wait, we've had one or more of those going for ten years, and since we don't actually build much in this country anymore, buying 50-kajillion parts for our tanks and airplanes probably just goes right on benefiting the Chinese. But hey, replacing expensive American employees with cheap foreign ones has helped companies' bottom lines. Until we end up here, where fewer people have jobs and fewer people can buy those companies' products.
Seems to me like we ought to raise taxes, which Republicans hate, and cut spending, which Democrats hate. If everyone is mad, it must be a good idea. I'm just some idiot from Iowa. I don't really know if I'm on target about all of this, but I'm pretty sure I'm on the right track.