CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Sunday, Jan. 6 New York Times is remarkable for the convergence of a column by Thomas L. Friedman and one of the Times' editorials.
Friedman severely criticized President Obama for taking to the country following his election a singular plan to increase taxes on "millionaires and billionaires."
"There was nothing comprehensive, nothing bold, no great journey for America and no risks for [the President]" in his "easy" tax plan, which Friedman described as being "really disappointing."
Calling upon the President "to stop acting as a party leader and start acting like the president of the whole country," Friedman said it is time for the president to face up to the hard part by offering proposals for "comprehensive tax reform, entitlement cuts, radical cost-saving approaches to health care and new investments in our growth engines." Friedman concluded that while "we need to tax more millionaires ... we also need more millionaires and middle classes to tax. The President was elected to grow our national pie, not just re-divide it."
The Times editorial criticized French President Hollande for focusing on increasing taxes on millionaires, a "mostly symbolic tax increase" that would raise little revenue, rather than offering "a well-thought-out package of fiscal and economic reforms that [would] put France on the path of recovery and much more." The Times editorial might well have substituted President Obama for President Hollande of France and been largely on target.
Writing in the current, January/February issue of Foreign Affairs, Fareed Zakaria addresses the question "Can America Be Fixed?" focusing on what he describes as "The New Crisis of Democracy" as "not death but sclerosis."
After noting that the country now spends $2.2 trillion annually for entitlement programs, Zakaria describes the "great challenge" facing America today is "[r]ebalancing the budget to gain space for investment in the country's future."
Even if the nation's budget allowed spending on infrastructure, Zakaria would not entrust the spending to Congress in that, as he put it, its decisions would be based "on politics (pork), not need or bang for the buck."
"The U.S. government currently spends $4 on citizens over 65 for every $1 it spends on those under 18," according to Zakaria causing him to claim that "[a]t some level, that is a brutal reflection of democratic power politics; seniors vote; minors do not. But it is also a statement that the country values the present more than the future."
There is plenty of evidence to support Zakaria, in addition to the age-difference in federal spending which he cited.
The Washington Times reported on Dec. 7 that the United States currently borrows 46 cents for every dollar it spends. As a consequence, the gross federal debt has soared to approximately $16.5 trillion, and was recently projected by the Congressional Budget Office to reach $26.1 trillion by the end of 2023.
To a considerable extent, our staggering multi-trillion dollar debt is evidence that the country indeed values the present more than it values the future and, in my view, is a manifestation of an inherent trait of human nature -- the yielding to present desires.