Budget Deficit

Michael Kinsley's Right: This Can't Go On


We're gonna need a bigger briefcase

Over at The Atlantic, Michael Kinsley looks at the United States' long-term fiscal outlook, and concludes that "The biggest peril Americans now face isn't Islamo-fascism. It's our own inability to live within our means." Excerpt:

I'm sitting here in a pile of reports and studies by think tanks, public-policy schools, the Office of Management and Budget, and self-appointed grandee fiscal crusaders. They all make the same, tiresomely familiar point: that this can't go on. […]

The Great Recession may have been a legitimate reason for putting off the day of reckoning—just as a cold may be a good reason to put off a necessary heart operation—but the cold doesn't cure your heart problem or eliminate the need for the operation. […]

There are a dozen ways to look at the national debt and the annual government deficit, and they all lead to varying degrees of panic. What's especially scary about our fiscal situation is that everybody knows the facts and concedes the implication, but nobody is doing anything about it […]

Do tell

And the national debt is just a fraction of the problem. State and local governments, unlike the national government in Washington, cannot print money, and many states have constitutions that forbid them to run a deficit. Nevertheless, they will be losing, together, about $140 billion this year. […]

Debt is everywhere you look. Here's a short inside piece in The New York Times Magazine about state and local unfunded pension obligations for retired employees. They add up to between $1 trillion and $3 trillion. Until that article, I had given no thought whatsoever to shortfalls in state employee pension funds. You?

Why, yes we have, again, and again, and again some more. And partly because we are not newcomers to either the pension crisis or broader long-term fiscal and economic mess, we have a list of proposed solutions that I think will work better for both the public purse and the private economy than Kinsley's half-hearted suggestions of an across-the-board estate tax and more rationing of end-of-life medical care.

You can see those suggestions–in 3-D!!–by subscribing today to Reason. Do it now, and you'll get our November "How to Slash Government Before it Slashes You" issue, complete with snazzily designed Reason.tv 3-D glasses, with which you'll also be able to watch related video content at your favorite video journalism website. Serious times call for serious horror iconography, and honest-to-God solutions for a problem most people consider intractable.

Kinsley link via Andrew Sullivan. More on state pensions below:


NEXT: Are We Headed for Tea Party Armageddon?

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  1. “…I had given no thought whatsoever to shortfalls…”

    He’s spent his entire career supporting that shit.

  2. The way I see it, we have 5 choices:

    1) Do nothing and wait for the Rapture
    2) Cut spending
    3) Raise taxes
    4) Cut spending and raise taxes
    5) Increase spending, raise taxes and wait for the Rapture

    1. Republicans will do #1.

      Democrats will do #5.

  3. “Until that article, I had given no thought whatsoever to shortfalls in state employee pension funds. You?”

    I am sorry but he is a lying sack of shit. I like Kinsley. And think he is a smart guy. He is one of the few media liberals with an IQ well into triple digits. But I am not buying that for a moment. The pension crisis has been obvious for years. No way does a smart, aware guy like Kinsley just find out about now.

    1. Maybe he’s trying to make the ignorant reader feel better, by saying, “Hey, this is a big deal, and if *I* didn’t know about it, you’re excused for not knowing about it either. But it’s a big deal.” And he’s helping to draw attention to it, which is a good thing.

      1. Maybe so. A lot of what is written by liberals to liberals consists of making liberal readers feel better about themselves. Liberals have very fragile egos and enormous senses of entitlement and self worth. Perhaps Kinsley is just showing his understanding of his audience.

        1. Most Americans of any political strip have “enormous senses of entitlement and self worth”. Thanks for pointing out that liberals are just like everyone else, that’s helpful.

          1. Liberals are like everyone else. They just know less than other people.

    2. Triple digit IQs gives one the tool to be smart. but, if you keep putting your thumb between the nail and the hammer as you bang away for 70 years, like liberals, with some short interruptions, have been doing, you are not smart. You are insane.

  4. Definitely looking forward to the 3-D glasses. I have a 3-D Three Stooges comic book I saved from the old days, and I’ve been going blind reading it.

    1. …and I’ve been going blind reading it.

      That’s not because of the 3D.

  5. What’s especially scary about our fiscal situation is that everybody knows the facts and concedes the implication, but nobody is doing anything about it […] [bold added]

    Go ahead, continue to vote for Dems or the GOP (after all they are the only viable candidates) and watch this country fiscally implode.

    Drink that two(?) party Kool-Aid?.
    Go Team Red/Blue!
    Beat Team Blue/Red!

  6. Do it now, and you’ll get our November “How to Slash Government Before it Slashes You” issue,


    My question has been answered!!

    1. Amount Charged: $19.95
      Trans. Routing ID: 000000004046044
      Personal Subscription
      Customer Number: 80091700004
      First Name: joshua
      Last Name: Corning
      Address: 130 Riverview Drive
      Address 2:
      City: East Wenatchee
      State: WA
      Zip: 98802
      Phone: 509-669-9900
      Email: stendec@gmail.com
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      Number of Issues: 11 Issues
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      1. You’re having Reason delivered to a steel building surrounded by RVs?

        1. He likes to call it “The Compound.”

        2. Google maps is cool.

        3. You’re having Reason delivered to a steel building surrounded by RVs?

          No the building south of that.

        4. Gosh, Josh, it’s a trailer park.

          1. It’s bumfuck Washington. That’s serious nowhere, dude.

          2. Gosh, Josh, it’s a trailer park.


            The lot north of my office is an RV repair shop.

            You guys are friggin jerks!!

            1. You’re just now realizing this?

              A bit slow, aren’t you/

            2. Well, what did you think would happen when you posted all of your personal information for us to see?

              1. The same thing that happened when i posted my home address about a year ago.

                Someone would go to google maps get a map that is at least 200 feet off the mark then make some scary claim that i have exposed my identity to the big bad internet.

                Of course the fact that i have also in the past posted my social security number and use my real name here should have dissuaded them.

                That fact that it hasn’t still amuses me.

  7. A couple of other interesting takes…



    1. There’s credit card debt that’s unrecoverable?! Wow. I got followed around to a dozen different addresses, two coasts, and a half dozen jobs just to get a measly thousand bucks out of me (it’s long-since paid off) – what kind of rock do you have to hide under to get away from those guys…?

  8. Debt is everywhere you look.

    Somebody give that man a cigar.

    Our entire economy is based on debt. Our monetary system is based on debt. People go to work everyday to pay off debt. Not just their personal debt, but the government’s and everybody else’s debt. If everybody in the country and the governemnt paid off all of their debt, there would be no money. FACT

    Fractional reserve lending + fiat money = debt based currency.


  9. I guess posting this clip is now mandatory.

  10. goddammit, wrong thread.

  11. We absolutely need to raise taxes and have a federal pension bail. The federal government must step up immediately. Here is how. Immediately tax all excessive public pensions (you pick a number) with a federal excise tax. Find out whatever jurisdiction is responsible for funding such outrageous pension and grant the money back to current officials. Empower them to spend this money in any way they want. Presto. Bypass the local and state politico/employee sweetheart deals. Allow these crooks to pass whatever they want in pensions then take it back. Only the feds have the power to collect such an excise tax. This would result in perfect symmetry. Tax those who receive the benefit. The good people of Bell, CA have provided a case study of why this is absolutely essential. Tax the rich!

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