The unbearable endlessness of indebtedness

Cartoonist Bob Gorrell made good use of M.C. Escher's drawing of Moebius-strip-like hands to portray the endless cycle of debt we're in.

Feeling like one of Escher's ants?

Me, too.

A house divided

Today is the 150th anniversary of the opening shots of the Civil War being fired on Fort Sumter, outside Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.  For an interesting video on what happened that day and the run-up to it, see this at the Daily.

So, as you might expect, Civil War analogies have been flying. Leonard Pitts' column at the Detroit Free Press (reprinted—mostly—in today's Ithaca Journal) is here. And here's Jesse Jackson:

“This is a Civil War fight,” he said. “I think Time magazine has it right. This is the 150th anniversary of the 1861 Civil War. Now those are determined to shut the federal government down to make their point — their ideological-religious point.”

“You have those who believe in states’ rights and those who believe in a more perfect union,” he said. “States’ right are anti-civil rights, anti-workers’ right to bargain, anti-social justice, pro-rich and significantly insensitive to poor people — that was the great divide 150 years ago and it’s the great divide today in the ideological sense.”

Jerry Brown got into the act too:

This week Brown has been using Civil War metaphors at his public events to describe the deep divisions in California, and the entire country for that matter, preaching with the passion of a born-again that the country is dangerously polarized.

“We are at a point of civil discord, and I would not minimize the risk to our country and to our state. It is not trivial. I’ve been around a long time, I’m a student of history, I’m a student of contemporary politics. We are facing what I would call a ‘regime crisis.’ The legitimacy of our very democratic institutions are in question,” he said.

We've said things like that before on this blog, but I'm guessing we wouldn't see eye to eye with Governor Brown on what exactly that means.

And as we approach the deadline for filing tax returns, Philip Klein writes at the Washington Examiner (emphasis mine):

I wrote last week that for President Obama, it's never the right time to deal with the long-term debt crisis. But senior adviser David Plouffe took to the Sunday morning shows to announce that Obama would give a major speech outlining his plan on Wednesday.

[....] While short on details, Plouffe said Obama would argue for raising taxes on higher income levels once the current tax deal expires at the end of 2012 – but that's already accounted for in the budget he released, in which deficits are $4.4 trillion higher than Ryan's over the next decade.

On the spending side, Obama has already either ruled out many of the obvious entitlement reforms or is using them to finance the health care law.

For instance, in his State of the Union address Obama had this to say about Social Security:

To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations. We must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.

If you aren't going to to touch benefits, that implicitly means no changes to the retirement age either. So the only thing that leaves is raising taxes. Yet Obama's big Social Security plan during the campaign – to raise the payroll tax on higher incomes – was already used to help finance ObamaCare.

[....] The only options that would evidently be open to Obama is to find more ways to raise taxes beyond merely cutting some loopholes and rescinding the dreaded Bush tax rates on higher incomes, and to slash defense spending significantly when the nation is fighting three wars...

As we've pointed out before, even entirely confiscating the assets of the "wealthy" would not allow us to continue on our current course of spending.  Which leaves us with borrowing and monetizing the debt—leading to rampant inflation. So, some people at least would look at it this way (emphasis mine):

...The future is literally being stolen from our children and our grandchildren.  They will be inheriting the 14 trillion dollar (and still rising) national debt that we have accumulated.  What we have done to future generations is unthinkable, and yet we continue to endlessly borrow more money.  The Congressional Research Service estimates that the U.S. government will need to borrow $738 billion between April 1st and September 30th.  Faith in U.S. Treasuries is falling so rapidly that now the biggest bond fund in the world, PIMCO, is actually shorting U.S. Treasuries.

When you base an entire economy on debt, eventually you end up with money problems that never seem to end.  As a nation we are now enslaved to a vicious spiral of debt that is going to destroy everything that our forefathers worked so hard to build.

As the debt loads of our federal, state and local governments become even more burdensome, they are going to want even more money from us.  For decades we gave in to new tax after new tax thinking that it would finally satisfy them.  But it never seems to be enough.  They always want more....

At the risk of being called racist, I'd say enslavement takes many forms.

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