One way or the other, Sarah Palin will have the biggest impact on the GOP’s chances to win the presidency in 2012. Her recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal supporting Rep. Paul Ryan’s economic deficit reduction and economic growth plan is simply her latest in a series of comments on the important issues for America. Her astuteness in these matters is apparent. No, I don’t care if she actually writes these, although there is no reason to believe she does not. Whether she does or not, it is apparent she understands their importance and meaning.
The two areas where the Federal Government can do the most damage domestically are: 1) the fiscal issues of tax and spending policy, i.e., too much of both; and, 2) regulatory nihilism—-in particular relating to the ad hoc restriction of property rights unilaterally by the executive branch. This happens when the Government implements and interprets vaguely written laws with “unintended” consequences. Examples include the recent Chrysler and GM bailouts, unfunded mandates of all kinds; defining CO2 as a pollutant; the already unchecked power of the EPA overall; and the upcoming Big Kahuna, “Obamacare”.
Ryan’s proposal, A Roadmap for America’s Future, addresses the first issue most directly and parts of the second issue indirectly (for example, his proposals to change Obamacare). I think his plan is a good plan. It is good primarily because it exists at all. If it were up to me the plan would be more simple. About 2/3rds of the forward federal budget are entitlements. Basically, the way our entitlement system works is as follows. It taxes 1 dollar from one group of people and promises 2 dollars to another group of people. All of us are in both groups, although at different times in our lives and for different forms of entitlements.
This is not hyperbole, just a simple statement of what the Government does in fact. The ratio of 1 to 2 may be different, but you get the point. What does this mean? It means as a nation we are less wealthy than our official balance sheet says we are. Think of your own assets and liabilities. If you are like me there is one liability you ignore, the debt of the federal (and state) government, which can only be paid with your taxes, (which is what politics is about, i.e., “who gets and who pays?”). On average, a family of four owes about $140,000 using the most favorable accounting in federal debt. It is really a multiple of that when one factors in the growth path of entitlements, as they are growing far faster than our economy can support.
Any individual today can go on the Social Security website and it will actually show you your personal social security account as if it were a brokerage statement. But unlike a brokerage statement, there are no assets—just a promise to pay. What they will not show you are your personal liabilities owed to the government, because we pretend individuals don’t owe it. If it were there honestly, you would find you owe more money than you will receive, if we had actual transparency. Our entitlement system is not a mere transfer payment system, which by comparison would be almost harmless; it is a true Ponzi scheme, and therefore not sustainable. All economists know this of course. I honestly believe most politicians really do not understand this.
Ryan’s proposal at least transparently addresses the problem of entitlements for all to see. Yet it sits out there in no man’s land within the GOP, with no visible alternative in sight. Entitlements are called the third rail in politics for a reason. I believe the reason the GOP fears this issue, as all past politicians have, is there is genuine concern that the so called tea party movement, which put the GOP back in power, is not really the vanguard of a fiscal restoration movement. Rather, they fear it is a more traditional “don’t gourd my Ox” movement. Maybe it is; if so then we really are at the beginning of the end for the American Empire.
Next: What does it mean that Palin is the first 2012 hopeful to endorse a specific plan?