Public reaction to last week’s election results has been startling, from rioting on the left to Washington power-brokers on the right cozying up to the incoming President.
But will the outcome of this election really matter in the long term?
I’m certainly aware of the long-lasting import of SCOTUS appointments and similar decisions made by the chief executive. But it remains to be seen whether we have, in fact, dodged a bullet or signed our own death warrant as a nation.
What concerns me more than ever is this simple, undeniable fact:
In our Republic, power still rests firmly in the grasp of those paying for it.
One factor that seemed to drive those who voted for Donald Trump was that he ran as an outsider to the political establishment. Yet it appears the new President-elect has immediately begun to align himself with Washington power brokers to run his transition team and fill some 4,000 jobs in his new administration. Some experience in Washington’s swampy ways makes sense, but this bears watching. Insiders will not bring the change that Trump supporters voted for.
The conciliatory tone and gracious words of both Secretary Clinton and President Obama were, at first, impressive and hopeful. But what began as “let’s all get along” quickly escalated to “love fest,” which has left me wondering if perhaps these are all nothing more than players on the same team of massive, centralized government for the elite few. There’s almost a welcoming of the new guy — a savant at swaying public opinion — to the most exclusive club in the world.
We’ve seen it before. President George W. Bush buddied up to President Clinton and the limited government Republican expanded government dramatically. Of course, President Obama has far surpassed that. What will Trump do on this point of limited government and deficit spending? It’s a critical question that rarely came up during the sordid campaign. And that’s not promising.
I’ve long contended that Obama, with his big government approach and radical expansion of public debt — to say nothing of the expansion of executive power — was merely the logical next link in a long chain of Presidents who had done the same things, albeit on a less imperial scale.
Trump is already bearing all the signs of continuing this trend, despite his campaign promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington and be a president for the people. His plans to spend yet more money we don’t have on massive infrastructure projects, and cozying up to the powerful elites, does not bode well for the goals of reducing big government and slowing the rate of public indebtedness — a pace which long ago reached a truly insane level.
To those who argue that the federal debt is a non-issue, consider that a 2014 analysis in Forbes by columnist Jeffrey Dorfman placed U.S. public debt at 688 percent of federal revenues using 2010 numbers. Once 2013 numbers became available, it appears that US public debt had grown to 979% of of Federal revenues. This is not sustainable and frankly an immoral act against our children. A bankrupt America is not much of an America.
Lest we allow ourselves to be convinced that this trend is unique to Obama, consider what other Presidents in recent memory have done, shown below as a percent of their predecessor’s cumulative debt totals.
Servicing the public debt becomes a bigger and bigger line item in our budget each year, and there are significant reasons to believe that it has already become unsustainable. One shudders to think about what the outcome of this trend will be.
In the meantime, the very public fight over social questions during our election cycles has served as a distraction from this disturbing pattern of borrowing and spending. Those administrations that can be described as “left of center” tend to spend more on social agendas, and those that can be described as “right of center” tend to spend more on national defense. But what both sides have in common for decades is increasing the debt and spending money we don’t have. This is the forgotten crisis.
The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower is servant to the lender.
While the left and the right fight over the admittedly important issues of abortion, healthcare, immigration, and who uses which bathroom, those who are willing to pay for power are plundering our pockets and those of future generations of Americans. Buying voters’ support with our children’s money is just wrong. But will it change with this election? The evidence so far that it will is scant.
David G. Johnson is Founder and CEO of Grow the Dream, a strategic marketing firm based in Sarasota, Fla.