I had dinner last night with one of the richest men in the world. Yeah, that's how I roll. Not really, but I just like to say that. It mortifies my children when I try to be cool.
If you think I'm a gloom and doom kind of guy, then the conversation we had last night made me look like the poster child for Pollyanna syndrome.
This guy is a very well-respected man in the business world. I think he could even be the Rockefeller of our day and he had practically thrown his hands up in the air in defeat, because he just doesn't see a leader out there willing to do the tough things.
And quite frankly, I don't know that he's wrong.
I mean, when have you ever seen a politician do the "tough" thing and do what's right in favor of what's politically expedient? Not often.
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But not only are they not doing the tough thing, they aren't even asking what the "tough" thing is.
I have asked and here they are:
• Cut taxes: How many times do we need to see evidence that it works? We saw it in the Roaring '20s with Harding and Coolidge. We saw it with Reagan in the '80s. And we saw it in 2003 with the Bush tax cuts.
Did you know that after the Bush tax cuts, we had 46 straight months of growth? Of course you didn't. Progressives don't want you to know that and conservatives have failed miserably at explaining it to America.
• Share the burden: Not everyone wants to hear this, but low earners who don't pay anything now will have to pay. But forget trying to convince those people, how about those who are getting money from the government? They've been convinced by our politicians they have a right to someone else's money.
The world is a competitive place. It's why Texas is thriving and New Jersey has lost $70 billion in wealth: people move. If the government doesn't make us competitive for companies, they will do the same and go somewhere like Singapore or China. We're not competitive anymore.
• Cut spending: And I don't just mean the bridges to nowhere and the turtle tunnels. Yes, cut those too, but I am talking dramatic spending cuts. This is something even Reagan couldn't do. You have to go back to Coolidge and Harding to find the kind of reduction in government services I'm talking about.
We're not talking about "freezing" a tiny slice of the budget that President Obama did — that sounds good for politics, but it's not going to get us anywhere. Roughly 17 percent of the federal budget is included in that spending freeze; that leaves about 83 percent to balloon out of control. All of those "non-frozen" areas are going to increase.
And what about that $787 billion we borrowed for the stimulus? The interest in our debt alone will send us in a tailspin. According to government estimates, for 2011, the net interest on our federal debt is roughly $250 billion; by 2016 it's $627 billion — more than 13 percent of our total budget.
I wrote this in "Common Sense" last year: "By 2019, annual interest payments on the national debt will balloon to a projected $806 billion! Why? Because, as you might know from your own credit cards, interest compounds quickly. Making only the minimum payments will result in the unpaid interest being added to our outstanding debt. It's a cycle that's almost impossible to pull out of and the damage to our country will almost certainly be irreversible. That $806 billion is more than what it cost us last year to fund the entire Department of Defense ($583 billion), Veterans affairs ($86.6 billion), the Department of Transportation ($68.7 billion), and the State Department ($18.9 billion)... combined."
Someone has to tell you the truth.
Medicare is out of control. Social Security is out of money. There is no lockbox. When Social Security started, age expectancy for men was 58 and 62 for women. It was designed for the lucky few who actually lived beyond expectancy. If the system worked today — like FDR designed it — you wouldn't get your benefits until you were 75 for a man or 80 for a woman.
Now who in Washington has the stones to step forward and say no Social Security benefits until you are eighty? No one.
They want minimum wage to be slave to inflation. How about making Social Security slave to lifespan of Americans? Don't worry, if health care passes that life expectancy should start dropping very quickly.
Does anyone have the stones to convince the country that is addicted to government "free stuff" and we've got to break the habit? Of course, the first step to solving the problem is admitting that we have a problem. And we haven't really done that yet:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We can see clearly now that the steps my administration is taking are making a difference, blunting the worst of this recession and helping to bring about its conclusion.
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No, it's not behind us. We're not past the worst.
What you need right now, is not someone to sugarcoat things. You need someone who's going to give you the truth, the hard truth. What's coming our way is not good. What's coming our way is currently unfolding in Greece and Spain. But you watch: We're on the list, America.
By the end of the term of this president, America will clearly understand our financial future. You'll feel it firsthand. And you don't want to wait for that moment.
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