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Five Reasons for Optimism Print E-mail
By Stephen P. White   
Saturday, 17 November 2012

In Poland, they have a saying: A pessimist is someone who says, “Things can’t possibly get any worse!” An optimist is someone who says, “Oh, yes they can!” Here are five reasons for optimism.

Item 1: The national debt today exceeds $16 trillion. President Obama’s most recent budget would raise that to around $20 trillion by the end of his second term (a growth rate of about $2 million per minute) while running permanent deficits in excess of $600 billion dollars. According to his own budget, President Obama will leave office having added more than $8 trillion to the national debt in 8 years.

The cost of interest on that debt will more than double between 2013 and 2017, which means that by the time the Forty-fifth President of the United States is sworn in, our debt service costs alone will exceed $550 billion per year. By comparison, direct spending on the Iraq War – all eight+ years of it combined – was about $800 billion.

Item 2: The primary drivers of all this debt are our entitlement programs, especially health care entitlements. Last summer, President Obama said this about the impending Medicare crisis: “If you look at the numbers then Medicare in particular will run out of money and we will not be able to sustain that program no matter how much taxes go up.”

During the campaign, President Obama blasted his opponents for wanting to “end Medicare as we know it.” Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that in a little more than a decade, federal spending on health entitlements, social security, and debt service will consume 100 percent of federal revenues. Given the path the president has kept us on, it seems that a lot more than “Medicare as we know it” is going to end.

Item 3: The economy stinks. This isn’t news, but what people might not realize is that it’s getting worse – the economy has slowed each of the last two years. A new recession in the next twelve months is not unlikely. Unemployment continues to hover around 8 percent, while labor force participation is trending downward toward record lows. Real wages continue to fall.

As Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan said over and over again, this is not what a real recovery looks like. But you don’t have to take their word for it: here’s a telling chart from the Congressional Budget Office that demonstrates the point rather succinctly.

 

Historically, the average recovery is more than twice as robust as our current recovery. You might say that in the three years since the recession ended, the Obama economy has managed to fall two full years behind schedule.

Item 4: The birth rate in this country recently hit an all-time low (34.3 births per 1,000 females per year) and the total fertility rate – the number of births per woman per lifetime – fell to 1.9, below replacement level and a record low.

Our largest entitlement programs are funded by payroll taxes. Medicare and Social Security are basically massive transfers of wealth from young workers to older retirees. This would be unconscionable except that the young eventually get old themselves, at which point the wealth of new working youngsters gets transferred to the “new” old folks. Generation A is subsidized by Generation B, Generation B is subsidized by Generation C, and so on. But what if Generation D is too small to cover the costs of Generation C’s entitlements? If Greece is the canary in the coalmine, there are reasons to worry.

Item 5: Speaking of demographics, some 53 million children have been legally aborted in this country since 1973. Almost no one mentions this, but one of the reasons we face an entitlement crisis today is that we’re missing a few dozen million young people.

And of course, if a nation is willing to kill its unborn children by the millions, what qualms could it possibly have about bequeathing ruinous debt and diminished liberty to whatever’s left of the next generation?

One last point: While President Obama has aggravated many of these problems, and will no doubt continue to do so, they all have roots going back decades and were evident long before he was elected president. And while there was some hope that they might have altered our national course for the better while there was still time, it is unlikely that a Romney-Ryan administration would have been able to satisfactorily resolve these challenges.

Back in July, when the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare, Chief Justice John Roberts offered this warning: “It is not [this Court’s] job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”

In the face of staggering challenges, this nation has not chosen to throw our leaders out of office, but to keep them. The question now on the minds of many is whether that decision reflects a fundamental shift in the character and values of the American people away from both our Judeo-Christian heritage and the Founders’ understanding, and towards a self-destructive hedonism in our moral lives and a progressive understanding of the state? Or does the election reveal a house deeply divided culturally – and not simply split about the means to a common end, but about the ends of government?

If it’s the latter, then there is great deal of work to do. If it’s the former, then perhaps H.L. Mencken was right when he suggested democracy was the theory that the people “know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

 
Stephen P. White is a fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC and coordinator of the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society.

 
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.
 

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Comments (12)Add Comment
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, November 17, 2012
We better hurry up implementing that New Evangelization since no one other than Jesus Christ will be able to save us from ourselves.

What's the plan, Church? Jesus had his sights set on Jerusalem. He knew where he had to go. What's our plan for converting the hearts of the people?
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written by Grump, November 17, 2012
The unending American gravy train never stops thanks to the taxpayers who not only pay for trillions in useless military hardware and babysitting the indolent but also on such studies as this, as reported by HealthDay News:

"Unique patterns of brain activity occur when rappers spontaneously improvise lyrics, a technique known as freestyling.

"That's the finding of a government-sponsored study that included 12 freestyle rap artists who had at least five years of rapping experience. The results were published online Nov. 15 in the journal Scientific Reports."

Is this a great country or what?
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written by Maggie-Louise, November 17, 2012
It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere. - Voltaire.
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written by corruptio optimi ..., November 17, 2012
pessima ...
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written by jsmitty, November 17, 2012
You write:

While President Obama has aggravated many of these problems, and will no doubt continue to do so, they all have roots going back decades and were evident long before he was elected president. And while there was some hope that they might have altered our national course for the better while there was still time, it is unlikely that a Romney-Ryan administration would have been able to satisfactorily resolve these challenges.

me: I couldn't agree more. I'm very glad that you did what few conservatives do and you acknowledged that many of these problems were baked into the cake long before Obama was president. And I also appreciate the skepticism that Romney would have resolved them...especially when he opposed any cuts in America's bloated military budget and his voting base is dominated by Medicare recipients whom he also promised to exempt from any sacrifices at all.

Both parties are now in the process of trying to shift the inevitable adjustments onto the other party's base as much as possible.

What I wonder is how long it will be before the Democrats figure out that the country needs a higher birth rate to preserve the social insurance state that they've built. Some already advocate higher immigration for that reason but can't quite follow the logic of that position to its conclusion. The GOP can't say this of course because many of its top thinkers secretly entertain hopes the social insurance state to go away over time anyway. (I'm talking to you Paul Ryan!)

So we live in the paradoxical time that the ostensibly pro-life party cannot defend the most practical reason for having fewer abortions and higher birth rates while the ostensibly pro-abortion party cannot bring itself to do so either.
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written by John Braun, November 17, 2012
I like your question Deacon Ed, but I don't think the USCCB has a plan. They have a series of programs without a plan. As for the article by Mr. White: pretty serious but with a sense of humor. I think we have a house not only culturally divided but politically, religiously, and economically as well. So, yes, we have a lot of work to do. A plan might help, but God already has one.
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written by beriggs, November 17, 2012
I believe that there will be no crisis for the next generations when faced with a top-heavy demographic. If it has been safe and legal for a mother to kill her offspring, it will be safe and legal for any offspring who remain to kill their mothers. The euthanasia and "assisted dying" programs are now being put into place for the convenient unburdening of said offspring who have a wonderful example of abortion on demand upon which to point.
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written by Graham Combs, November 17, 2012
Back in the summer the Wall Street Journal's HEARD ON THE STREET page (and no friend of its own paper's conservative editorial page) insisted that you have to count the debt burden of Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac -- that's an additional five trillion for a total of 21 trillion anemic American dollars. So it is already worse than stated here. The Obama Children's Crusade is not only in the academy or in the media or in Hollywood, it is also very much a part of corporate America. That may be one reason why the economy continues to stagnate. Management has capitulated to an its own perverse anti-business culture. In my personal experience the managers and employees of large corporations vote consistently left, feminist, affirmative action, big government, pro-abortion, you name it. And heaven help the lone conservative in the breakroom. It's all part of the Obama Demographic. I suspect it is worse in Europe and Britain. Only last week as the economy continues to wobble, there was a conference of huge corporations, including BP and financial institutions about the place of lgbts in the office. Skewed priorities doesn't begin to describe it. Are these actual business people?
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written by Jack,CT, November 17, 2012
I often wander what the Saints are thinking,
the decay of a nation starts with the total
disregard for "LIFE",seems planned parenthood
will continue to be funded and our grand kids
will pay for it.I read your article and it was
very insightful and I thank you.
We need to pray for our "Leaders" and keep
Hope alive.It seems the "HHS' mandate is a
reality,I pray for all Catholic organizations
who are stuck in the "MUD",dammed if you do ...
etc..
How many people are going to loose health care?
How many Catholic workers are going to loose
health care?
Are Catholic employers going to be forced to pay
for a nine dollar "LIfe preventing" drug?
Where are we?
Not a thing has changed with three billion spent
on an election!
I pray for our Nation and stand with those who are
"NOT" giving up our "LIBERTYS".
Jack
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written by Athanasius, November 17, 2012
We live in a nation where at least a small majority is composed of juvenile-minded people. I think many of these people are well intentioned, but are rather ignorant on economics and theology. These people become "useful idiots" as the Soviets used to say for the socialistic demagogues that are running our government, academy, media, and entertainment industry.

What to do? Educate our friends and neighbors. How? Anyway you can. Post pro-life views on facebook. Put pro-Catholic bumper stickers on your cars. Wear religious t-shirts. Read theology books and put reviews for them on your facebook account. Teach CCD. Learn how the economy really works, and how conservative ideas are really more compassionate so you can intelligently debate the useful idiots. Learn the beauty of Catholic sexuality, don't be ashamed to defend it, and live it in your relationship with your spouse.

Above all, pray, trust in Jesus, and go to mass every week. Little by little we can change the culture. It will take time. But don't get discouraged. Our nation survived 12 years of FDR and 8 years of Woodrow Wilson. We can survive 8 years of Obama.
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written by magnusfide, November 18, 2012
>>written by Deacon Ed Peitler, November 17, 2012
We better hurry up implementing that New Evangelization since no one other than Jesus Christ will be able to save us from ourselves.

What's the plan, Church? Jesus had his sights set on Jerusalem. He knew where he had to go. What's our plan for converting the hearts of the people?
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written by Doug, November 18, 2012
Reason for optimism among Christians:
Christ told us, "You must, then pray this way: Our Father ..."
Would he tells us to pray unfruitfully? Is God's Kingdom something to be desired? It is "in Heaven"; why not also "on the earth"?
Be patient, says Peter.

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