Still Timely

2 January 2004

What Craig Cantoni had to say leading up to the dawn of a new year is worth repeating monthly throughout the year:

My ticking New Year’s wish
by Craig J. Cantoni

(Not for publication or distribution before 12-31-03)

As the clock ticks towards midnight, I have an unusual New Year’s wish: that every high school student read ”The Long-Term Budget Outlook,” published by the Congressional Budget Office earlier this month.

Although the purpose of the 78-page report is not to teach history, it could be used to teach students how FDR and LBJ built financial time bombs in the form of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that are set to explode in their generation. It could also teach how their parents and grandparents added dynamite to the bombs instead of disarming them. Tick, tick, tick.

The report makes this sobering conclusion: ”Unless taxation reaches levels that are unprecedented in the United States, current spending policies will probably be financially unsustainable over the next 50 years.” Tick, tick, tick.

Instead of the ubiquitous warning labels on products, the following warning label should be put on the one-dollar bill: ”Warning: It is harmful to the financial future of children to keep printing and spending these at a record pace.”

Based on current trends, federal spending will increase in the next 50 years from the historical average of 20 percent of Gross Domestic Product to somewhere between 32.8 and 52.9 percent. And that does not include state and local spending, which also has been rising faster than inflation. Tick, tick, tick.

Although I doubt it, students may have learned that the Constitution limits the federal government to certain powers and thus to providing certain essential services, such as national defense and a banking system. They might be surprised to discover in the CBO report that the share of federal spending on such services has declined from 68 percent in 1962 to 38 percent today, being replaced by spending on entitlements, which are not mentioned in the Constitution. Tick, tick, tick.

Perhaps if students read the CBO report, they will realize that presidential candidates who promise more goodies at their expense are evil people, not compassionate people. And maybe the students will question why their local government spends money on sports palaces, training facilities for out-of-state baseball teams, Taj Mahal school buildings, light-rail boondoggles, art subsidies, developer subsidies, and other nonessential expenditures.

Of course, like most New Year’s wishes, mine will not come true. Government schools are unlikely to encourage students to read the truth about government spending.

Tick, tick, tick.

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Mr. Cantoni is an author, public speaker and consultant. He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com

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