Diagnosis for Democracy
Insights into the State of Our Union
A Blog by Rob Tenery, MD


Who Will End Up Taking the Blame?

By Rob Tenery, MD on March 14, 2016

As of 2015, the U.S. debt/Gross Domestic Product ratio was at 106.5%. No one has been able to predict the exact ‘crisis point’ that the U.S. economy will fail, but projections would put the U.S. debt/Gross Domestic Product ratio at 150% by the mid-2030s and 400% by the early 2060s. This is clearly unsustainable, ultimately leading to a significant financial crisis.

Wars are costly. It is probably true that if Bush had not invaded Iraq and Hussein, or another dictator, was still in power, then ISIS would not have come into existence. Just as true is that if Obama had not pulled out our troops from Iraq and told the enemy his timeline, ISIS probably would not have occurred either.

Money has been allocated to build a fence between the United States and Mexico. For a myriad of excuses, from outright dereliction by our current and several recent past Presidents and our Congressional representatives, to political posturing, only 685 miles of this 1954-mile border have been completed. Washington is in gridlock because the Republicans are afraid of losing the Hispanic vote and the Democrats are holding out to increase their voter base. The immigration problem is draining our country's support sysyems and is causing an increasing dilution of this country’s identity, spiraling costs of health care, escalating violence that have direct ties to Mexican gangs and rampant drug trafficking. This deluge of illegal aliens is turning into an invasion, rather than a humanitarian crisis as described by our administration in Washington, DC.

Mandatory spending such as the entitlement programs of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, unemployment, etc. makes up two-thirds of the federal budget. And the ‘entitlement mindset’ isn’t just with federal spending programs. It also starts with parents who can’t say no to their children. With teachers who pass their students on to the next level just because they don’t want to hurt their pupils’ self-esteem. Then it continues when they take six years to finish college, run up debts on their credit cards that they never hope to pay off, but still buy the big-screen television on time because they want one. As adults, they purchase houses they can’t afford to make the payments. They drive the latest cars and take the best vacations. Somewhere along the way, they neglect to adequately fund their 401K, or set something away in case the company, they work for, decides it is time to bring in ‘new blood’.

On the brighter side, now that their children are over 18 and out of college, the tuition and child support payments have stopped. Looking forward to retirement, many of these same adults plan to rely on Medicare and their Social Security benefits in their older years.

Unless significant changes are enacted, the Social Security Trust Fund will be empty sometime in 2034, and Medicare will run out of money in 2026. At some point a debasement of economic value will almost certainly happen anyway. The classic working paper, This Time is Different: A Panoramic View of Eight Centuries of Financial Crises by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, points out that “serial default on external debt is the norm throughout every region in the world.” Translated, it means the government of a sovereign state will either fail or refuse to pay its debt in full, resulting in devaluation of the currency.

The responsibility to predict and prepare for this ‘serial default’ falls on the leadership to enact measures that will soften this blow. It also falls on the population itself to accept their responsibility and not just rely on the ‘system’ to protect them.

Jesse Watters is a commentator on the Bill O’Reilly television show on the Fox Network. The thrust of his interviews, called Watter’s World, with random individuals ‘off the street’, demonstrate how uninformed a significant percentage of our population is. But even more disturbing, they are potential voters who often don’t seem to care--- taking for granted that others will lead this country for them.

The enormity of these disparate circumstances, coupled with an alarmingly high percentage of our uninformed and uncaring population, should serve as a wake-up call. Not only for each of us, but about the problems we will leave behind for our children.

Who will end-up taking the blame, because we didn’t address the problems when we could? At the end of ‘our day’ each of us has to answer for our existence--- even if it’s only to history!





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