Economics

Because No One Does Fiscal Reponsibility Like the Federal Government

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Over the last few days, both major party candidates have said Wall Street is out of control, and needs more and better federal regulation. Barack Obama has mocked the concept of the "ownership society," which is the sensible idea that people should have control over their own lives. John McCain has promised to rein in the "greed" and "self interest" on Wall Street. Both promise a tighter regulatory structure, as do leaders of both parties in Congress.

Here's my question: The federal government is currently running a $400 billion deficit. If we never add a new federal government program, taxpayers are still on the hook for $59 trillion in unfunded future Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security liabilities.

Nevertheless, both McCain and Obama are still making wildly expensive promises, and proposing a wide array of new federal programs. Not exactly the models of fiscal restraint, these two.

Yes, markets can be brutal. And it's never pleasant to watch a correction unfold in real time. I'm certainly dreading the sight of my next 401(k) statement. But even the shadiest of corporations wouldn't attempt the the shenanigans the federal government employs to hide its liabilities from taxpayers. When it comes to cooking the books, Congress can throw down with Bobby Flay.  When it comes to solvency…well…$59 trillion.

All of which makes it a pretty dubious proposition that we'd be better off today if only we'd given more power to our noble politicians to safeguard the public interest from greedy corporations.