Tag: government debt

Government Shutdowns and Debt Ceilings

Craig Axford | Canada

Government shutdowns and flirtations with default by putting off raising the federal debt ceiling have become regular occurrences in Washington, D.C. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised given the number of representatives and senators regularly expressing disdain for the very institution they were elected to run, but still.

Americans like to believe their nation is exceptional, and it is: it’s the only developed nation on the planet that doesn’t guarantee all its citizens healthcare, higher education is more expensive there than just about anywhere else, it has the only government that it’s possible to shut down without having to resort to violence, and it’s the only nation that flirts with suicide by requiring votes on its debt ceiling.

That’s right. No other governments have even one, let alone two, kill switches built into their system. And why would they? What’s the point? Unless the intent is to erode public confidence in government it makes no sense for elected officials to even contemplate closing down popular national parks or giving all the people in charge of enforcing our public health and safety regulations an extended unpaid holiday?

The habit of shutting down the government now and then (as well as the continuing resolutions passed to avoid them) is an unintended bug in the American system rather than a feature of it. So too is the necessity to authorize more borrowing periodically once the national debt has reached a predetermined threshold. Both of these bugs are extremely dangerous but, unfortunately, they are likely to remain unfixed for the foreseeable future.

America’s founding fathers were revolutionaries. As such, they were no fans of the British government, which by the late 18th century was already well established and quite recognizable to any citizen of the 21st century. Though King George III was the titular head of state, like his contemporary successor Queen Elizabeth II, he had very little actual power to match the privileges that came with his hereditary title. Parliament was already very much in charge.

Nothing like what took place in Philadelphia following the American Revolution had ever been seriously considered, let alone attempted, in London. To intentionally sit down and craft rules for a new government quite literally being built from scratch was a radical idea if ever there was one. To call America an experiment is not an exaggeration. As with any experiment, the outcome is unknown until it has come to a close. The American experiment hasn’t ended, but so far it certainly has produced some unanticipated results.

In creating the modern world’s first republic, America’s victorious rebels were faced with the task of establishing rules for a country that no longer had centuries of tradition to fall back on. The norms of the mother country they had just abandoned had evolved over hundreds of years of power struggles between the aristocracy and the crown, with a nascent merchant middle class increasingly making its own demands over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries. The newly independent colonies wanted to distinguish themselves from the nation they had just liberated themselves from, but how?

The US Constitution settled for a president instead of a monarch, while the House of Representatives took the place of the House of Commons and the Senate stood in for the House of Lords. Each elected member of these respective branches is subject to regular fixed terms of office, with the power balanced more or less equally between them rather than resting largely in the representative branch (i.e., parliament) alone. With the exception of the extremely rare and difficult case of impeachment, the US Constitution provides no opportunity to hold any single officeholder accountable for failure during the period between elections, let alone the government as a whole. Federal judges receive lifetime appointments, something else not seen in any other developed representative democracy to this day.

In a parliamentary system, the failure to pass something as routine as an annual budget triggers a crisis. Under the Westminster parliamentary model followed in the UK, Canada and several other members of the Commonwealth, this crisis brings down the government and forces the monarch or her designated representative to dissolve the government and call an election. In unstable periods when minority governments are common, elections tend to be relatively more frequent, while in less turbulent political times a majority government can persist for five years or so before facing a vote.

Likewise, when a parliament authorizes spending beyond the government’s anticipated revenues, it is understood they have necessarily approved an increase in the national debt. Therefore, there is no need to consider raising the debt limit independently. From the perspective of citizens living in parliamentary countries, it makes no sense that the same Congress that approved deficit spending one month can spend time the next flirting with a refusal to allow any borrowing. It’s like having a government that doesn’t know its own mind.

Unfortunately, the kind of crises that bring down governments in parliamentary systems has become commonplace in the United States. Budgets go years without being approved, with Congress lurching from one continuing resolution to the next while various factions hold federal employees and the citizens dependent upon their services hostage until some pet project or favorite policy or another is approved in exchange for keeping things running for a while longer. A Prime Minister Donald Trump would either be facing a vote of the people at this point in the budget process or a leadership challenge by members of his own caucus. One year in office would be unlikely, but four would almost certainly be impossible.

I’ve been living in Canada for the better part of a decade now. On most days I find myself feeling pretty ambivalent about the monarchy if I even think about it at all. That’s not because I can see equal merit in both sides of the argument regarding having someone born into the role of head of state. It’s because I recognize all societies require a sense of continuity and for some countries that can take the shape of a monarchy that has existed in one form or another for centuries. A woman that appears on our money while playing an entirely ceremonial role is harmless, if not for the actual person forced into the job by an accident of birth then at least for the rest of us.

I’m not feeling so ambivalent about having a parliament, however. I have strong opinions about the two Canadian prime ministers I’ve lived under so far. But the extent of my approval or disapproval aside, at least I know that the nearby Pacific Rim National Park will, weather permitting, always be open and that with the exception of national holidays at the local Services Canada office the door will never be locked. Even the UK Brexit debacle hasn’t convinced me parliaments are less effective or ultimately less democratic than the divided governments that have become the norm in the US.

If for some reason, it turns out parliament can’t do its job there will be an election lasting a little over a month while the people try to vote one in with a sufficient mandate to do it. In the meantime, things will go on pretty much as before without any nightly news reports about government employees unable to pay the rent because someone got it into their head they wanted to build a wall. I know it’s incredibly unAmerican to say so, but if you were to put me in a time machine and send me back to 1776, I would tell the founding fathers to get rid of the monarchy if they must, but at least keep the parliament.

Follow Craig on Twitter or read him on Medium.com


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Christmas Withdrawal From Syria Exposes Trump’s Allies

By Mark West | United States

President Donald Trump gave Washington a Christmas surprise by announcing, via Twitter, that ISIS is defeated and that the United States will begin the withdrawal of approximately 2,000 troops that are stationed in the civil-war-ravaged nation of Syria. Reports and rumors are circulating that an imminent draw down of forces in Afghanistan is also on the President’s agenda. President Trump’s allies have been knocked off their footing by this move towards a demilitarized world.

Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, who has become a more vocal supporter of the President in recent months, is a leading voice of criticism of Trump’s move labeling it “a stain on the honor of the United States.” Graham also pointed out that he believes the President is ignoring “sound military advice” in his move to withdraw our troops from Syria.

President Trump isn’t taking Graham’s critique lightly, firing back in a tweet that it was “hard to believe that Lindsey Graham would be against saving soldier lives & billions of $$$.”

Many Republicans in Washington and the media were openly critical of Trump’s decision before Defense Secretary James Mattis bombed the capitol with his resignation which appears to be directly impacted by his own dissension from the President’s decision on Syria. The most telling line in Mattis’ resignation letter reveals his reasoning as he says that Trump has, “the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects.”

The next few days and weeks will be full of expert opinions on what to do next on Syria. Senator Graham is already pushing for Congressional hearings to discuss the move. Debates will swirl around how the Kurds will be impacted and how this move empowers Russian dominance in the region.

President Trump’s surprise announcement exposes his allies. We see now the reality of the establishment Republican status quo in DC. Most military spending to support our interventionist international military presence is, in reality, a right-wing, big-government boondoggle. Neocons don’t want their base to see that they have been hoodwinked.

Trump’s allies continue the tired and flawed argument that ISIS will be fighting us in our streets if we aren’t fighting them in the streets of Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. As a matter of fact, Senator Graham shared that same thought in his tweets of criticism against Trump.

This rhetorical fantasy is meant to disguise us from the reality that the party of small, limited government simply isn’t living up to the slogan when it comes to empire-building, international policing activities using our troops. Our national deficit might be $6 trillion dollars less if not for our state of war in the Middle East since 2001.

President Trump is making the right call on the Syrian withdrawal and with the drawdown in Afghanistan. He is exposing his limited government allies’ dark underbellies in a way that will help balance our budget and begin shrinking the national debt. Our invasions abroad have not ended the terrorist threat and may even be one contributing factor in its continuing existence and strength.

Former Congressman Ron Paul tweeted his case that eventually all of our troops will have to come home because the tendency toward empire-building is bankrupting our government. We’ve spent around $3 billion per year in military interventionism that has possibly been as provocative as it has been proactive. How many new terrorists do we create by our interloping interference for every terrorist we kill or capture? We can’t deny the fact that we are indeed in their country, on their land, and in their backyard. We shouldn’t be shocked that the effect we’ve caused is continuing terrorism aimed at our troops and our citizens at home and abroad.

While not a proponent of the “America First” version of “Make America Great Again” that President Trump is pushing, I am in supportive agreement with his call to withdraw our troops from Syria and Afghanistan. Putting America first should mean that it’s time to bring our troops home so that the money spent maintaining their presence abroad can instead be invested in American infrastructure, innovation, and in keeping American troops present for their families here at home.


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The Tyrannical Nature of National Debt

By Jack Parkos | United States

There are two ways to conquer and enslave a country…One is by sword. The other by debt. – John Adams

The US national debt is rising at a dangerously high rate. In fact, it is nearly impossible for me to write the exact amount of the country’s debt as it will change every second. Right now, the United States national debt is at 21 trillion dollars and is approaching 22 trillion. One can observe the rising rate by looking at the US national debt clock. America is the most debt-ridden country out there, which is something truly frightening to look at. Even as tax revenue goes up, the debt too goes up.

Source: http://i2.wp.com/metrocosm.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/us-national-debt-history.png

Many may wonder: how could this possibly happen? Quite simply, it was irresponsibility with our government. They keep spending more and more and never learn their lesson. Like a teenage girl with a credit card, they either had little knowledge of money or simply did not care. Essentially, we gave the teenage girl a credit card that won’t cancel, and we set her free to the mall. Now “she” racked up a bunch of debt, and someone must pay that off.

Naturally, this responsibility will fall unto the taxpayers. It would make the most sense that those who voted for the Congress that got us into the mess to pay it off through their taxes. But this will not be the case. The next generation will be the ones forced to pay off the debt, they will have trillions in debt slumped unto the backs of their shoulders. Already, the national debt per taxpayer is over $178,000. This will only continue to rise.

The Tyranny of Debt

The people who will be paying off this debt did not vote for the leaders who put them into this crisis. They had no say in the matter. The past generation forced this onto them. The responsibility mostly lies with the Baby Boomers. Since they did not vote for this and must pay the cost through taxes, are they not being subject to taxation without representation? Certainly, they are. Taxation is already high enough-now, and now the wallet of the American will have to feel the burden of another man’s debt. The colonists fought a revolution over taxation without representation, and now we simply punish future generations with this!

People can typically avoid credit card debt by being responsible. When they are not responsible they must pay back their debts. This is seemingly just, as they are paying debts that they got themselves into. But if someone was forced to pay another’s credit card debt, would this be justice? Would it be fair to punish someone for an act they did not commit? Any reasonable person would find this unjust.

Similar to paying for another’s credit card debt is paying the debt of the last generation-it’s simply unfair. Not only is it unfair-it is tyranny.

The current state of the debt is a crisis. We are already trillions of dollars in debt and Congress does not show any sign of changing its poor habits, still signing trillion dollar spending bills and raising the debt ceiling. Perhaps Congress needs to be taught a high school level economics course; where you learn to not spend money you don’t have.

Even if Congress stops its bad habits (which is unlikely), there is still trillions to be paid off, the next generation would see taxes increased and spending cut. The debt is owned by Essentially paying for services they never used. Unfortunately, the damage has already been done. The boomers gave millennials debt and the millennials are giving the current generation debt. If the current generation does not pay it off, the next will get the debt. This process cannot continue forever, economic failure will result if this keeps happening.

The future does look dark, but let this be a reminder to my fellow younger citizens that you should care about politics. The actions today will ultimately affect your future.


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Government Could Be Funded Without Taxation

By Jack Parkos | United States

The libertarian ideology is made up of various factions and ideologies, a major one being Minarchy. Minarchists advocate for a small state whose sole purpose is to protect natural rights, including our right to life, liberty, and property. This state would only provide basic functions of government: courts, police, military to protect from crimes such as theft, breach of contract, or aggression.

A common issue brought up with a Minarchist state is of how it should be funded. As libertarians, we are opposed to income tax, capital gains tax, property tax etc. But we also believe in a small state to protect rights. So there appears to be a conflict in funding the state and keeping our principles. However, there are many solutions.

In the early days of the United States, the government was funded through lottery revenue.  The first of these lotteries was held during the Colonial area in Boston Massachusetts in 1745. The revenue from the lotteries was used to build bridges, fix roads, and fund other projects. This would be an efficient way to fund a Night-Watchman state.

Just like in Colonial America, a government lottery would be completely voluntary to participate in. People would purchase lottery tickets from the government and put money into a pool. Then, the winner would be drawn and would keep a certain amount of the prize money, and the rest would go towards funding the state. The amount going to the state may vary, but this would be an efficient way to fund. The lotteries would run similarly to raffles at fundraisers. Skeptics of a lottery system may counter that the government would not be able to function with these means of funding. But it must be remembered that this is a nightwatchman state with a small budget, requiring less revenue.

Fundraising, in general, could be a good way to fund the state. Many parents participate in fundraisers for things like kid’s sports teams, and it would make sense  they would do these to fund police or courts. If a service is good enough, people will be willing to pay for it. Perhaps the people or the government could do silent auctions on items and raise money like they do now. These could be run by the people and have the government funded via a donation or the government itself could run an auction.

Another way the government could function is fining people who commit crimes. Of course, a minarchist would never advocate a fine for a victimless crime, but rather for actual crimes; theft, breach of contract, assault etc. Let’s say, for example, someone damages another man’s property and is found guilty in court. In addition to paying for the damages, he may also pay a small fee to cover court costs. Some may scoff at this idea thinking of it as enforced taxation. But it must be remembered that this is the guilty party paying. This person chose to commit a crime that harmed another party knowing the consequences, this being one of them.

This is a system already used. Instead of abolishing fines, we have them only be put in place for actual offenses. So a person would not be fined or even punished for using drugs, but if they broke a contract or harmed someone and is found guilty by a jury, the guilty party would have to cover court costs. This system would be a great way of keeping courts running, ensuring justice, and protecting rights.

The minimal state will require funding, but this funding does not have to be taken from your income. There are plenty of ways to fund a basic government that do not require such a system. In the past civilizations have had systems similar to these. It worked well to fund a small, more localized government in early America. If we can shrink the government and reduce budgets, there is no reason it would not work today.


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End the Wars: The Only Way to Support the Troops

By TJ Roberts | United States

“Support the Troops”: A Siren Song for Warmongers

“Support the Troops” is a mantra by which the neoconservatives pray to their God, the Military Industrial Complex. As the war machine turns its eye toward Iran (and inevitably Russia), you can already hear the same old nonsense from the propagandists for endless war. According to the propagandists, sending young men and women to be maimed, murdered, and traumatized by people who have never wronged them is supporting the troops. But anyone with any hint of common sense would know that this is the polar opposite of supporting the troops.

The True Nature of War

War is nothing more than legalized mass murder, and sending young people to kill and to be killed is not support. War has cost America almost $6 trillion since 9/11. Selling out the entirety of our future into debt slavery is not supporting the troops. It is enslaving them and their children. War is also traumatizing to the brain. It is believed that up to 20% of all veterans have PTSD in some form. We see this in our daily life. 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Opting to subject young Americans to atrocities that will torment their psyche for the rest of their lives is evil. In no way is this supporting the troops.

The impacts of war go beyond this as well. Nearly 40,000 veterans are homeless or were homeless in their lifetime. This is because the military does not prepare you for the real world. It prepares you to take orders and not think for yourself. The military strips you of your individuality. It makes you a slave of the State, literal property to the United States Federal Government.

Rather than advocating for war, or the death, injury, and destruction of our troops, you should Support the Troops… by bringing them home. 1.3 million American soldiers are deployed around the world. That is 1.3 million people who have left their homes and families because the government deceived them into believing that propping up the American Empire will keep us free and safe. But if the Patriot Act doesn’t give it away, war makes us less safe and less free.

So many American soldiers have died for nothing more than government propaganda. When one takes a closer look at reality, we realize that the government has funneled trillions into legal mass murder. The military is no longer used for defense. It is now used as a means to impose the will of America’s ruling elite upon the rest of the world. For America to be free, this must end. For us to truly honor our soldiers, we must bring them home and stop making more of them. If Americans truly support the troops, they would call for an end to the wars.

No matter how the government frames it, war is nothing more than legalized mass murder. Perhaps this is best expressed by the sentiments of Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton’s second Secretary of State. On May 12, 1996, Albright claimed that the 500,000 children killed by US foreign policy in Iraq were “worth it.” The blood of half a million children is a high price to pay. But what did the people receive for that? Control. The US government is willing to kill millions in the pursuit of power throughout the world. Soldiers are no exception. If you are a soldier, the government sees you as nothing more than cannon fodder. You are more than this, but they don’t care.

The government hypnotizes soldiers by claiming that they will spread democracy around the world. This goal is neither honest nor noble nor possible. To spread mob rule to the rest of the world is to destabilize the world, but that isn’t the true intentions of the neocons in power. It is clear that the true goal is domination. When the US military “liberates” a nation, often sacrificing thousands of soldiers in the meantime, they do not allow self-rule. They implement puppet governments. The US expands its hegemony, dominating the world through the war machine. All dissenters meet their end, and it costs the American people hundreds of billions every year.

It is impossible to support war and not support big government. War amounts to the second largest expenditure of the federal government, with welfare in first place. Since 9/11, the war machine has cost more than $6 trillion to the US taxpayer. There is no opting out of this. Either you pay for the government’s organized mass violence, or they throw you in a cage. For one to have a war system as massive as the United States, the government needs to centralized, massive, and authoritarian. This is not freedom. If soldiers were truly fighting for freedom, they would defend America from its government.

Ultimately, war is the health of the State. Without war, the government would not be able to expand in the way it currently does. Defense would largely be private, and there would be no propagandist inducing fear into the hears of the public. The warfare State devastates the economy through inflation, opening the gates to the welfare state. The warfare state leads to the loss of millions of people throughout the world. In the last century alone, government has killed more than 200 million people in acts of war, democide, or genocide. If we are to truly honor the dedication to freedom that a soldier should hold, we would eliminate that occupation from this world. To honor the soldiers that lost their lives, we must stop creating new soldiers. No more should another person kill or be killed for the will of the government.

If you want to Support the Troops, oppose war, empire, and interventionism in all of its manifestations. This is your duty. If the State still chooses to go to war, it is the duty of any decent human being to encourage the people not to enlist and to resist the war effort in every way possible. And to the neoconservatives that claim this is hatred of the troops, answer this question. Which plan will kill more people: your plan, in which soldiers are sent into a battlefield to kill and be killed; or my plan, where war is a thing of the past and we support the troops by not sending them to die? It’s time. End the wars and bring them home now.


Originally published on freedomandeconomics.org.

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