Our Wise Overlords Are Just Here to Serve Us
An Op/Ed by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.
In some ways the budget is the easy part.
There’s nothing complicated about the fiscal crisis on the horizon. Even assuming the rosiest scenario – a robust recovery from our current malaise, along with interest rates holding at historic lows – the government’s own numbers tell us that by 2020 we’ll be paying nearly $1 trillion per year just in interest payments on the national debt. That’s quite a brick wall we’re about to hit.
But it’s not as bad as the coming collapse of the major entitlement programs. Social Security and Medicare are underfunded by an astonishing $111 trillion. (The one consolation here is that this figure makes the national debt seem not so bad.) It is not possible to tax, borrow, or print our way out of that. That’s why persuading people that the numbers simply don’t add up isn’t our greatest challenge.
Instead, the hard part is overcoming the comic-book version of government all of us were taught in sixth grade. We know the drill. Government is composed of wise public servants selflessly devoted to the public good. Why, without them we’d have no art and no science, only the wealthy few would be educated, and most of us would be getting our limbs blown off by exploding consumer products or working in mines for a dollar a day. What ingrates these Tea Partiers are! Wherever would we be without the wise, paternal custodianship of Joe Biden?
It is this cartoon version of government at which we must take relentless aim. It is beneath the dignity of Americans to believe they’d be a heap of helpless and pathetic nobodies without the constant supervision of the political class. But that is the subtext of all the debates over the federal budget. If the federal government were to return even to the budget of 2008, why, we would be stepping over corpses on our way to work. There would be no one to “invest” in “our future.” The earth would likely break free of its axis and go tumbling toward the sun.
This description of life without the constant supervision of our wise overlords is superficially plausible, to be sure. But it is false – and grotesquely so – in every particular, as I argue in my new book, Rollback. The elites who look down their noses at the Tea Partiers demanding cutbacks pull this trick all the time: if we listened to the Tea Party, they warn, it would be the end of America.
To the contrary, it would be a new beginning.
We literally can’t afford to believe the comic-book version of government any longer, or allow it to go unchallenged. The federal government and the weight of its impossible promises are sucking the life out of the American economy. We would not die instantly if this albatross were removed from our necks. We would flourish. If we’re going to have any success, we need to make this case. Rollback is my contribution.
Thomas E. Woods, Jr., who holds a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University, is the New York Times bestselling author of 11 books, including the just-released Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse. Read a free chapter.