TFT: As the economy improves, do you foresee a swing back to bedrock values?
CS: If you change the incentives, you change the culture and the character. The expectation of getting handouts began before this recession. And a lot of the policies we've put into place are intended to be in place long after. So we have to ask, "At what point does this country stop running trillion-dollar deficits? When are we going to understand that now's a good time to become fiscally responsible?" We have lived off our children and grandchildren long enough. It's time to turn things around. But like other binges, the debt binge is difficult to stop.
TFT: Do you hope that in this presidential election year some pragmatic solutions take hold and move forward?
CS: I'm somewhat frustrated by some of the dialogue right now. I know that the president would like to make this society fairer between the rich and the poor -- the 1% and the 99%. But rather than a discussion of class warfare, I hope we make this a debate about the makers versus the takers. We won't get ourselves out of our economic problems by increasing spending and debt, and increasing the number of people who are dependent on others. And no matter how responsible our young people are -- and I have two kids in college right now -- my generation is leaving our young people with an economy of crushing debt. They're going to inherit a completely different country than what we inherited. We've spent it all. That's tremendously worrisome.
TFT: Your commentary, in a chapter entitled "Step Away from the Trough," attempts to change this. How?
CS: We can say no to the things we want but can't afford. We can't have everything. But I don't know that we have the political will to do that right now. Europe is the distant mirror for us. That's not a talking point -- that's reality. We have to change the dynamic in which everybody is at the trough. People won't step away from it until everybody else steps away, everyone else from Goldman Sachs to farmers to Hollywood celebrities. It needs to be a culture-wide understanding that this is just not sustainable. But if the notion of intergenerational transfer of wealth takes hold, then we might have a more serious willingness to make that distinction between needs and wants.
TFT: Who among the current presidential candidates would accomplish that, in your view?
CS: Unfortunately, the person I'm politically closest to is not running. That's Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). He's just about the only political figure who has tried to grapple with this and say, How would we slow this entitlement world -- slow the growth of spending? And if it proves to be the third rail of politics in this election season, then I think we will have squandered one of the best opportunities we've had in a generation.
More from The Fiscal Times:
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
If the takers are registered voters, then . . . ahh . . . well . . . . .
I'm going out for a smoke.
VOTE RON PAUL
The comentator before mine has taken his few and applied it to the whole. The government is too large (and therefore too expensive) and too generous. While their intentions are good the road to hell is paved with good intentions. For some strange reason when large sums of money are passed around freely the idea of HUMAN GREED never enters their minds. Reagan gave our money to the company owners with the trickle down theory believing that they would use that money to create jobs. Somehow it got stuck at the top. Bush gave money to everyone believing that everyone would by consumer goods and create jobs. That did not work. [VOTE RON PAUL] When companies and banks needed bailouts to stay in business so that jobs would not be lost, those at the top considered the money as their bonuses that they would have gotten had they performed well enough to earn it (which they obviously didn't) . Obama gave tax refund dollars to those who did not earn money to pay taxes knowing that those who get free money without understanding how to use it wisely would put it back into the system and therefore create jobs. That just reassured the people who get "entitlements" that if you sit back and wait long enough that you will be reinforced for doing so. [VOTE RON PAUL] Our government provides a lot of free policing of other countries because of the archaic Monroe Doctrine but not enough policing at our borders. [VOTE RON PAUL] . If the government put rigid constraints on LOANS to the wealthy that they have to pay it back unless they PROVED job creation, that would make America stronger. Get rid of the word "entitlements" and call it what it is, "Freeloader Funding". Put restrictions on those funds to make it more uncomfortable to get them than to earn money. If the "entitlements" to the poor came with rigid constraints such as having legal documents with their finger prints on file and drug/alcohol screening (if that is why they are considered unable to work), that might decrease welfare fraud and dependence. If those who make more money receiving "Freeloader Funding" than they would working at a minimum wage job then provide them with less BUT if they do work a minimum wage job supplement their income so that they can live the American Dream. [VOTE RON PAUL]. There is a Republican candidate who stands on these ideals and his name is Ron Paul. Check out his website and although his positions sound "So CRAZY that they just might work."
I disagree with most of this story. I am 63, drew unemployment 1 time in the 70"s and I am still working today. My work is terrible, long hours,no money, not what I went to school for. The school led you to believe for a lot of money you could make a decent living. I have three college educated kids, 25yr, 31yr, 42yr. All private schools & college educated, they are now buried in school debt, working 2-3 jobs. They are minimum wage jobs not what they were educated for. All are struggling for basic needs( food, shelter, transportation, clothing etc.)Yes there are moochers in this country but not like the article wants us to believe. The older baby boomers like myself are tired of carrying the burden of wars, corrupt politicians, corrupt corp. trying to work people for less than a livable wage. I am self employed, no benefits, no retirement, everything I have made has gone to buying a house which after 35 years I may loose & raising my kids. I am thankful I was able to do this and hope I can continue to work. I blame government. We have been in continuous wars, constant corruption and no real jail time for the politicians or their buddies. They make laws that allow them to cheat and lie so why not the people? I believe that if you lead by example you will get that back. The conservatives feel they are entitled to a lower tax rate than I am because they have more money. REALLY? They are not providing jobs! They can donate millions to campaigns but can't create jobs? The rich do it to get something in return, If I give a $25 donation does this mean I get a free car sticker or do I get a bigger tax break. Get the drift? Oh by the way I'm going to take away unions, lower pay, raise the utilities, gas, & food so big business can get ahead and the little guy gets to struggle even harder? Also the more you struggle and the worst your credit score is means you will pay higher interest rates, car insurance, medical insurance rent. That's going to help someone to get ahead? REALLY? The more this country privatizes the less quality of life there will be. Corruption will rise. A lot of people will give up and depend on the government for their care if things don't get better. Why not pay people a good wage, allow them to feel pride in themselves and get ahead.? We don't need all the taxes if our government would stay out of other countries business. There's an easy solution to all this, downsize the number of politicians, put limits on thier terms served, no retirement for them except the number of years worked like you and I, no hospitalization except what you and I receive, their paid for the number of days they actually clock in and work, and the American people have the right to FIRE them immediately when they don't do their job. They are not allowed any money from special interest groups or lobbyist. That money goes to schools, roads, improvement in the states ONLY! The country would change for the better if some of this would happen. Not the one sided thinking of this author I know a lot of people who want to work but no jobs of any decent wage is out there. Myself I can have10 clients and earn $400 or nothing, out of 200 job applications not one yes.
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