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Pat Buchanan austerity

“Are the good times really over for good?” asked Merle Haggard in his 1982 lament.

Then, the good times weren’t over. In fact, they were coming back, with the Reagan recovery, the renewal of the American spirit and the end of a Cold War that had consumed so much of our lives.

It is hard to be sanguine about the future. The demographic and economic realities do not permit it.

Consider. Between 1946 and 1964, 79 million babies were born–the largest, best-educated and most successful generation in our history. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, both born in 1946, were in that first class of baby boomers.

The problem.

Assume that 75 million of these 79 million boomers survive to age 66. This means that from this year through 2030, an average of nearly 4 million boomers will be retiring every year. This translates into some 11,000 boomers becoming eligible for Medicare and Social Security every single day for the next 18 years.

Add in immigrants in that same age category and the fact that baby boomers live longer than the Greatest Generation or Silent Generation seniors, and you have an immense and unavoidable increase coming in expenditures for our largest entitlement programs.

Benefits will have to be curbed or cut and payroll taxes will have to rise, especially for Medicare, to make good on our promises to seniors.

As for the rest of our federal budget of nearly $4 trillion, we have run four consecutive deficits of over $1 trillion. To bring that budget to balance, freezes would have to be imposed and cuts made in spending for defense and other social programs.

From California to Wisconsin to New York, we see the process at work at the state level.

Government salaries are frozen, government payrolls are cut, government pensions and programs are scaled back.

California and Illinois are on the precipice of default. Cities like Detroit, Birmingham, Stockton and San Bernardino are already there.

As for national defense, how long can we afford to spend more than the 10 other top nations combined? How long can we continue to defend scores of nations half a world away? How many more trillion-dollar wars like Iraq and Afghanistan can we fight on borrowed money?

Moreover, the day of the great national enterprises is over.

FDR had his New Deal and World War II, Ike his federal highway system, Kennedy his space program, LBJ his Great Society, Reagan his military buildup and tax cuts, Bush his two wars and tax cuts, Obama his Obamacare.

But there is nothing left in the till to do big things. One sees only deficits and debt all the way to the horizon.

Europe has arrived at where we are headed. In the south of the old continent–Spain, Italy and Greece–the new austerity has begun to imperil the social order. In the north, the disposition to be taxed to pay for other nations’ social safety nets is disappearing.

With government in the U.S. at all levels consuming 40 percent of gross domestic product, and taxes 30 percent, taxes will have to rise and government spending be controlled or cut. The alternative is to destroy the debt by depreciating the dollars in which it is denominated–i.e., by Fed-induced inflation.

But you can only rob your creditors once. After that, they never trust you again.

There is another social development rarely discussed.

The workers who are replacing retiring baby boomers in the labor force are increasingly minorities.

Black folks and Hispanics alone account now for 30 percent of the population–and rising rapidly.

Yet these two minorities have high school dropout rates of up to 50 percent in many cities, and many who do graduate have math, reading and science scores at seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade levels.

Can their contributions to an advanced economy be as great as were those of baby boomers of the ’60s and ’70s, whose SAT scores were among the highest we ever recorded? U.S. scores in global competition have been plummeting toward Third World levels.

Everyone talks about how we are going to raise test scores. But, despite record and rising investments in education per student, no one in decades has found a way to do this consistently.

Moreover, while boomers were almost all born into families where mother and father were married and living together, Hispanics have a 53 percent illegitimacy rate, African-Americans a 73 percent rate.

Among the white poor and working class, the illegitimacy rate is now 40 percent–almost twice as high as it was in black America when Pat Moynihan wrote his 1965 report on the crisis of the black family.

And between the illegitimacy rate and the drug-use rate, dropout rate, crime rate and incarceration rate, the correlation is absolute.

Some of us are often accused of always “crying wolf.”

But it is worth noting that one day the wolf came.

Books related to the topic of this article may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

Published with gracious permission of the author. Copyright 2012,

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14 replies to this post
  1. Brad Birzer said recently that every republic has an expiration date. It's a good reminder, and has historically been 100% true. If one thinks that Pat Buchanan thinks clearly, and I do, then it just depends on what we are willing to do to extend the warranty. The choices seem increasingly to be 1) Go the way of Rome and be truly imperial, or 2) break up the empire, and maybe even the "nation," and radically decentralize.

  2. It would be enough to do what Buchanan proposed to do when he ran for President in 2000: fix the immigration problem by viewing it as a matter of ensuring good citizens rather than making a country of cheap laborors. Just look at New Mexico and Nevada where Romney lost and imagine if there were Americanized latinos there instead of illegals with a sense of entitlement. It's like the lecompton mess all over again, only this time the voters are imported from other countries rather than states.

    Otherwise, Buchanan tells us America will go the way of the Balkans – that is not the way of peaceful decentralization, but of war. American national identity must be preserved, and America must remain a viable republic, otherwise friends of liberty the world over will be reduced to having no practical example to look to.

    Take heart and remember: the greatest crime of the Iraq war was not that it destroyed Iraq, a country clearly at war with itself, but that it bankrupt and nearly destroyed the American republic. Imagine if Catholics decided to give up on a unified Church after the Borgias or the recent scandals? The world is better off with a faulty 2000 year old Church than without it. The world will be better off with a 1000 year American Union than with everyone laughing at its' break up after not even 300 years. Republics are transient, but the US constitution is a mighty vehicle for perpetuation that will outlast Obama.The American union, like the Church is worth preserving because both are far bigger than the times, they are repositories of what is best in the west.


    • In no way is the American union is worth preserving. National identity is not preserved by staying together, never has been. That’s why the 13 colonies seceded from the British Empire, to preserve their national identity.

      I’m a Southerner, and have nothing in common with a progressive, abortion supporting, gay marriage supporting, gun banning Northerner or Kalifornian. If being associated with that progressive smut culture constitutes American, then I am NOT an American. It’s time we separated, to preserve what liberty and culture we have left.

  3. Hispanic parents *work hard*. They work so hard to achieve the American dream, that their children are latch-key kids with no support or mentoring. We spend trillions in defense but the education system is a mess. The teacher's unions are so powerful that you can't get rid of bad apples. There should be a bonus system for raising test scores. A few good and dedicated souls have worked wonders… (Remember the film "Stand and Deliver"?)My husband works hard for his bonus, so should teachers.

  4. You can't compare a civil union like the US with the Divinely ordained Church that has the guarantee of indefectibility. To do so is tantamount to the heresy of manifest destiny. I believe a 50 state union with half the states firmly opposed to the other on moral issues is not viable.

  5. John, I have spent what may be an inordinate amount of time wondering what a "breakup" decentralization would look like, whether it comes out of necessity or by choice.

    Anymore, state governments are little more than conduits for sluicing federal dollars to favored constituencies and interest groups. Out west anyway, few states come to mind that could actually stand on their own fiscally and otherwise. Resource-rich states might have a fair chance of sustaining workable economies, assuming the rule of law can be maintained somehow. Would states band together along some sort of natural demarcations (cultural or geographical) and form small republics, perhaps?

    Brad is right — we can't avoid the expiration date. With my first child on the way, more and more my thoughts turn towards wondering what kind of "nation" he'll inherit.

  6. Hispanics work very hard, but they are entering a system already broke. And given conditions of poverty, ignorance, and a Catholic Church that does not provide them with the morals it can and should: their work ethic alone is not enough to turn the tide. Besides, whites and blacks are uniformly terrible workers, and there's still more of them than Hispanics.

    Also, we have to separate test scores and such from actual education. Relativism crippled the education system: teachers telling students "there's no right or wrong answer" and social promoting to "not hurt their feelings" is what reduced American schools to little more than pedo-brothel snake pits. Plus, how often do they lower the passing grades and dumb down the material? It doesn't compensate for sucky teaching. A century ago we taught Latin and Greek in high school. Now we teach remedial English in college.

  7. The death of the family is the death of the country. When I preach on the dignity of marriage, especially fatherhood, I also state that "the govt cannot be your daddy, only your daddy can be your daddy." Imagine, Moynihan was disturbed about illegitimacy rate of 26% in 1965. The map is firmly ensconced in a divide over moral issues. The result of a welfare state is a people who do not want to be free. The redefinition of human nature (same sex marriage) and killing of ourselves will end the country. We kill off over 1 million workers/taxpayers per year since 1973. Is the real winner of the election Islam.

  8. If we could build containing walls around Seattle and Portland (of a historically modest size — no more concrete than was used in, say, the Hoover and Grand Coulee Dams), we might have a decent shot at a functional and prosperous republic out here.

  9. Matt, the Catholic Church is the only one that can provide morals to counter the culture of death. Protestantism is increasingly fractured. The problem is that the voters rejected the very morals that would help turn the tide.

  10. Please, please, stop this anonymous nonsense! Please do not write to this site if you are unwilling to stand up. Please stop being cowards, and I am willing to call you that even if I know you. The secret ballot ended any possibility for practical democracy to work. Anonymity makes it impossible for a serious forum for discussion to work. I am announcing to my friends and colleagues that I will no longer reply, respond, respect, or have anything to do with anonymity. If you are untenured or think you are vulnerable for stating your beliefs, get another job, or just shut up.

  11. Yep, the "anonymous comment" is the work of laziness. I abhor any site that promotes it. Sure it can be worked around but too many folks think that the good idea of the moment is anything that will kiss ass on the public's worst urges, in this case the urge to laziness. Good for you, John!

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