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Proving Plato right by spending ourselves into oblivion

Plato in his arguments against democracy 2,400 years ago reasoned that democracies were doomed to failure because once the people learned they could vote themselves money, they would, spending themselves into ruinous debt and oblivion.

So far, since modern democracies began in 1688 with the Glorious Revolution, he’s been wrong. Democracy for most of its modern existence has been quite parsimonious.

That is, until the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st.

Now, the verity of Plato’s argument may be nigh.

Lost in the town hall shouting over whether the Grim Reaper has been written into President Obama’s health care plan is the fact that the nation is broke.

Depending on who’s doing the analysis, the plan as proposed would cost between $50 billion and $170 billion a year.

The increase in spending is supposed to be paid for by an increase in taxes on the rich, but since we Americans love spending and hate taxes, it’s likely the tax will be jettisoned in order to get it through Congress, adding to our nation’s already stupefying national debt.

At the close of World War II the nation’s debt was 120 percent of its gross domestic product. The amount of debt, about $250 billion, remained constant for most of the 1940s and 1950s. It grew in the 1960s to about $350 billion and in the 1970s to about $750 billion. But over those 40 years the debt as a percentage of GDP plummeted thanks to a burgeoning U.S. economy.

By 1980, the national debt as a percentage of GDP was only 35 percent.

Then came Reagan and Bush. Their profligate ways spent the debt into the trillions and pushed it to 70 percent of GDP. Clinton managed to push it back down to 60 percent and even managed a balanced budget for the first time in decades.

Bush II reversed that and drove the debt up to 80 percent of GDP.

Now we have Obama. In a single year he’s tripled the budget deficit, spending $1 trillion more than the United States will collect in taxes this fiscal year. He plans to spend the same next year. By next October, U.S. debt as a percentage of GDP will be 100 percent, about $13 trillion. Foreign countries, namely China, own most of that debt.

We think that because of our aircraft carriers and tanks we’re the biggest, baddest nation on Earth. China could crush us without firing a shot. They only thing keeping them from doing so is they’d crush themselves in the process.

But not for long. They’re rapidly approaching the point where their own prosperity will become self-sustaining and they won’t need the massive transfer of wealth from the U.S. and Europe anymore.

We could put a stop to this fiscal madness if we wanted to. Democracy gives us that power. It only takes one election cycle to switch out the spendthrifts and stop voting ourselves money (it matters not the political party, Democrat or Republican, they’re all drunk on money).

If we do, we’ll continue to prove Plato wrong.

If not…

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