Levine is a first-year politics major and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
The American government needs a very serious wake-up call and the latest budget debate proved this to be extremely pertinent. With a $14 trillion national debt looming over America—to be burdened by future generations—Congress has made some serious cuts.
Well, not exactly. Although the media and current administration have focused so much on the supposedly harmful cuts, in actuality, nothing meaningful was accomplished. Republicans and Democrats alike are guilty of petty argumentation and poor decision making.
Here is a situation not unlike that in Washington (although the figures are not scaled in proportion): Imagine you and a friend have the luxury of receiving $250 a week and you may spend it on pretty much whatever you like. The money, however, is not technically yours. During week one of receiving the money, you and your friend spend $500 using credit. It’s easy to realize that spending hundreds more than what you have is problematic. Not only is it completely unsustainable, but also it isn’t even your money to begin with.
Lucky enough for you, a third friend lends you some cash to help out. But the next week’s situation is even grimmer: Although you and your friend still only collect $250, the both of you decide to spend $1,000. By the third week, when you plan on spending $1,500, your friend stops and says, “Listen, this can’t go on any longer. We need to stop spending so much.” It is ironic that now your friend says something, despite the fact that through the previous two weeks it was equally his idea as yours to spend in deficit.
The two of you sit down and discuss what to cut out of your spending. After intense banter and political debate, the two of you have a reached a conclusion: Instead of spending $1,500 that week, you will only spend a meek $1,400. Wait, what? It should be painfully obvious that the compromise reached did not put you and your friend in a particularly safe position. Rather, you would still be spending at a much higher rate than you could afford. The money you cut was not near enough to bring you back to even.
This is precisely what happened during the latest budget debate between the Republicans and Democrats, partially because the Republicans weren’t mature enough to let go of NPR and Planned Parenthood and start discussing real cuts in problem areas such as foreign policy. But the Democrats seem oblivious to the real need for any sort of cuts and therefore nothing substantial was accomplished.
The Washington Post very keenly pointed out that the $38 billion cut in future spending is the largest in history; however, that should not surprise anybody considering the government is spending at levels that are shattering previous records. Others deemed the cuts as near-apocalyptic and undoubtedly threatening to our nation’s future. But in all reality, the $38 billion was not enough. The cuts will only reduce the federal government’s budget by less than 1 percent and the major issues of entitlement reform and foreign policy remained untouched.
No matter how Keynesian you tend to be, people must recognize that the government’s current spending problem is not sustainable. Almost more importantly, though, it isn’t moral either. Accumulating debt on behalf of people who have no say in the matter—meaning young people like us—is by all means unethical.
Ambrose Bierce, a famous American writer, defined debt as, “An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slave driver.” Look no further than the government to find that oppressor.