Monday, December 05, 2011

The American debt trap

Robert Samuelson looks at Europe and notes it could happen here: "The welfare state's reckoning"
The numbers -- to those who don't know them -- are astonishing. In 1870, all government spending was 7.3 percent of national income in the United States, 9.4 percent in Britain, 10 percent in Germany and 12.6 percent in France. By 2007, the figures were 36.6 percent for the United States, 44.6 percent for Britain, 43.9 percent for Germany and 52.6 percent for France. Military costs once dominated budgets; now, social spending does.
The difference being that social spending can never be reduced.  It only increases because there's no will for Americans to cut their own benefits.
The paradox is that the welfare state, designed to improve security and dampen social conflict, now looms as an engine for insecurity, conflict and disappointment. Facing the hard questions of finding a sustainable balance between individual protections and better economic growth, the Europeans have spent years dawdling. The parallel with our situation is all too obvious.
In other words, the government big enough to give you anything is big enough to take it away.

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