Con­fronting na­tional debt now

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

The tim­ing for re­lease of this book could not be bet­ter. The debt ceil­ing’s claimed dead­line ap­proaches as Congress wran­gles over how or whether to con­front the con­se­quences in a mean­ing­ful — if po­lit­i­cally risky — way or take the easy course of run­ning up the na­tional credit card yet again.

In “Amer­ica’s Tick­ing Bank­ruptcy Bomb: How the Loom­ing Debt Cri­sis Threat­ens the Amer­i­can Dream and How We Can Turn the Tide Be­fore It’s Too Late,” Peter Fer­rara warns that the old game of get­ting past the next elec­tion will no longer do.

The meta­phoric “tick­ing time bomb” is about to ex­plode if we do not dis­arm it, writes the au­thor, who served in Ron­ald Rea­gan’s White House Of­fice of Pol­icy De­vel­op­ment and as as­so­ciate deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral for Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush. He cur­rently holds pol­icy and legal po­si­tions with the Heart­land In­sti­tute, the Car­leson Cen­ter for Pub­lic Pol­icy and the Amer­i­can Civil Rights Union.

Bad enough that dur­ing Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s eight years in of­fice, Amer­ica aban­doned ev­ery one of the ma­jor planks of Reaganomics, Mr. Fer­rara laments. More­over, Pres­i­dent Obama has “ac­cel­er­ated into hy­per­drive even more in all the wrong di­rec­tions,” propos­ing poli­cies that would in one term cre­ate a debt that ex­ceeds that of all other pres­i­dents, from Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton to Ge­orge W. Bush, com­bined.

This fact-crammed vol­ume is the re­sult of end­less re­search by an au­thor who writes very much the way he talks. The en­cy­clo­pe­dic in­for­ma­tion rolls off the tip of his tongue as eas­ily as he com­mits it to pa­per.

Our nation’s cur­rent path, if unchecked, will lead to an Amer­ica whose sta­tus will re­sem­ble what many his­to­ri­ans at­tribute to the eco­nomic and cul­tural de­cline ex­pe­ri­enced in Europe’s Dark Ages. Many oth­ers have out­lined the choices be­fore us. Few have ex­plored the po­lit­i­cal dilemma in such de­tail.

En­ti­tle­ment re­form is a big is­sue with Mr. Fer­rara. He ven­tures be­yond the $15 tril­lion in fu­ture cuts in Medi­care pay­ments to doc­tors and hos­pi­tals, which “will cre­ate chaos in health care for se­niors.” Dare one mur­mur the words “death pan­els”?

More to the point, the au­thor notes, “Drug com­pa­nies would ul­ti­mately cut back on in­vest­ments in cut­ting-edge cu­ra­tive, pain-re­liev­ing and life-sav­ing mir­a­cle drugs,” and many will die need­lessly as a re­sult.

The book’s 64-page chap­ter “Oba­macare: Death and Taxes” ac­cords the pres­i­dent’s plan the moniker the late econ­o­mist Mil- ton Fried­man ap­plied to so­cial­ized medicine in gen­eral: a “black hole,” with ev­ery­one pay­ing more and more for less and less. Mr. Fer­rara finds it wor­ri­some that some of those ad­vis­ing Mr. Obama on health is­sues have ex­pressed cava­lier at­ti­tudes likely to alarm the el­derly and dis­abled and their fam­i­lies, sug­gest­ing health care ef­forts should be greatly de­pen­dent on the pa­tient’s per­ceived worth to so­ci­ety in gen­eral.

He cites Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, for ex­am­ple, who has been quoted as say­ing that doc­tors should look be­yond the needs of their pa­tients and con­sider “so­cial jus­tice” by not guar­an­tee­ing health ser­vices to pa­tients “who are ir­re­versibly pre­vented from be­ing or be­com­ing par­tic­i­pat­ing cit­i­zens,” such as those with “de­men­tia.”

Mr. Fer­rara was putting the fi­nal touches on his vol­ume just as House Bud­get Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ryan was re­leas­ing his own Path to Pros­per­ity bud­get pro­posal, which passed the House with just four Repub­li­cans vot­ing no.

The au­thor has kind words for the Ryan ef­fort, but un­like the Wis­con­sin con­gress­man, Mr. Fer­rara also takes on So­cial Se­cu­rity and rec­om­mends per­sonal ac­counts, which, he con­tends, would re­sult in “pros­per­ity for all.”

This is not un­like the pro­gram orig­i­nally of­fered by Ge­orge W. Bush in 2005. Mr. Fer­rara says Mr. Bush’s White House So­cial Se­cu­rity pol­icy staff fum­bled by switch­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s con­cep­tion of re­form from “the pos­i­tive pop­ulist model” to a “Pain Cau­cus model” that in­cluded ben­e­fit cuts and tax in­creases.

At one point, he al­leges, the pres­i­dent him­self made a “highly con­fus­ing and for­get­table ap­pear­ance” on na­tional tele­vi­sion, and the pub­lic “had no idea what he was talk­ing about.” Pub­lic sup­port then dropped to be­tween 25 per­cent and 30 per­cent.

In la­bor re­la­tions, Mr. Fer­rara rec­om­mends un­prece­dented “Pros­per­ity Unions” wherein the dom­i­nant ques­tion to the em­ployer is, “What can we do to be more pro­duc­tive so you can pay us more?”

Add re­forms at the state and lo­cal level and a Rea­gan-like “peace through strength” for­eign pol­icy, and the end re­sult is Peter Fer­rara’s vi­sion of an Amer­ica the Found­ing Fathers had in mind when they wrote the doc­u­ment cre­at­ing a new nation like no other.

Wes Ver­non, a vet­eran broad­cast jour­nal­ist, is a Wash­ing­ton­based writer.

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