Some have noticed that I have been having some heated debates (argumentative arguably) over on the Singularity Network facebook group. I have been having colorful and expressive run-ins with a few of the usual right wing suspects, namely Samantha Atkins (who has always been a fairly close friend) and Mike Lorrey (who I’d qualify as a far right Libertarian gun toting extremist). You can follow these exchanges here and here, and seriously it isn’t all that spectacular. It is the usual back and forth on how we can sustain the spending curve for developed countries. Samantha argues that the entitlement spending (in particular welfare) is so big for the united states, it can cripple the economy and literally put the country (and probably most of the developed world) on a trajectory of collapse. I agree with her on this. The budget situation in the US is dire, and it comes from way too much spending.
The difference in opinion between mine and my right-wing friends, is that modern society depends on safety and security. A society depends on people feeling safe. While some believe that the U.S. military is most necessary for safety. I don’t agree – most people in the U.S. can not survive as a consistent national entity without paying social security, welfare (which is a drop in the bucket), medicare, medicaid as well as other retirement spending. The difference between a developing nation and a developed nation (or stability versus massive unrest) is financial security, by whatever means created. In the US the system is clearly generating this security via borrowing, a trajectory which clearly can not be sustained. Even if the US stops spending anything on the military, and increases taxes to European levels (which aren’t that high these days, actually) the US can not sustain these expenditures for another decade. It is simply impossible in the long run.
Yet the US as a state entity has little choice. The US may be actively preparing for the day they can’t manage to make these promises any more (example, example, example, example) but that is just grasping at straws. NO amount of intimidation tactics by DHS paramilitaries can prepare for more than a hundred million people in the US that lose everything. The state does not have the moral authority – these cops will rather join the desperate on the barricades than protect the interests of the (political) union.
So what is the difference of opinion pricesely? Samantha claims that a society (i.e. taxpayers) does not have a moral obligation to give a damn about people that are not productive. She “does not want to subsidize” people who aren’t pulling their own weight. There are some people on the SN group that agree with this assessment, and they do have a point.
My argument is that the state must do this. Let’s assume the US would stop making these payments in the next few years – that means the state does not pay an amount of 800 billion US$ to people who have absolutely no alternative for income, payment of rent, medical care, or a range of their other needs. That includes single mothers with babies, old people in care homes who can’t even walk, orphans and severely sick people. In effect if the US would take real steps to balance its budget it would have to create attrition conditions for over a hundred million people. That means – conditions of famine, vectoring disease, crime, despair. I argue that these conditions of despair would be so severe that the other half of the US also wouldn’t have security, income, food. The looting would crash anything resembling an economy and the debt owners of the US would quickly zoom in on a rapidly inflating dollar. The next step would be a US unable to meet its obligations in debt payments, or generate an income for the remainder critically necessary expenditures (such as the most basic military protection, running nuclear power plants, making the electrical grid function, protecting against the spread of severe disease, etc.).
This is a total no-win situation that has been created by a generation of woefully corrupt and disinterested politicians. This is a dilemma that can not be resolved. There is no way to resolve it, except to keep doing the same until the existing system collapses … which would probably be even worse in the long run. Ask Peter Schiff, he has been saying it for close to a decade.