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Rob Douglas: ‘Shambolic’ America

Last week's column focused on the never-ending battle about taxes and spending playing out 1,800 miles to our east because of the ongoing refusal by our elected representatives in Washington, D.C., to exert the effort needed to successfully tackle the challenges and responsibilities of their jobs.

As usual, I emailed a link for the column to the editor of http://www.completecolorado.com, a website that aggregates Colorado news and opinion pieces. Although the site regularly links to my Steamboat Today columns — along with news items and editorials published by the paper — the editor politely declined to post the piece because, in his opinion, it wasn't about Colorado.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The dysfunction of our representatives in Washington is a Colorado story, just as it's a Steamboat story and a Main Street, USA, story. After all, the economic anarchy taking place in Washington begins in the homes and legislative halls of every town and city across America. And the sooner we are honest with ourselves that the fiscal breakdown in Washington is because of our selfish desires here at home, the sooner we might have a chance of saving our nation from the financial collapse that will transpire because of the unsustainable financial demands we expect Washington to magically sustain absent any sacrifice on our part.

During Sunday's edition of "Meet the Press," New York Times columnist David Brooks poignantly compared the selfishness of Americans today to previous generations. "What's happening in Washington right now is pathetic. When you think about what the revolutionary generation did, what the Civil War generation did, what the World War II generation did, we're asking not to bankrupt our children and we've got a shambolic, dysfunctional process."

Brooks then asserted that our financial problems do not originate under the Capitol dome but here at home in Main Street, USA. "The big lie in this whole thing is that we've got this sensible country with a dysfunctional Washington. The reality is we have a country of people who want to bankrupt their children to spend money on themselves, and they will punish any politician who prevents them from doing that."

Further, as Brooks pointed out in a follow-up column, it's not just entitlement spending — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — that will eat our children alive. "Many voters have decided they like spending a lot on themselves and pushing costs onto their children and grandchildren. They have decided they like borrowing up to $1 trillion a year for tax credits, disability payments, defense contracts and the rest. They have found that the original Keynesian rationale for these deficits provides a perfect cover for permanent deficit-living. They have made it clear that they will destroy any politician who tries to stop them from cost-shifting in this way."

Brooks is correct. America's economic immorality originates at our kitchen tables and in our local and state government chambers. Every time we demand more money from Washington — either directly or through our local and state elected representatives — instead of learning to live within our means as individuals and communities, we add to the more than $100 trillion in debt and unfunded liabilities that are destined to suffocate future Americans because of our refusal to pay the piper today.

Almost every local and state government "balances" its budget by seeking and receiving tremendous amounts of funding from the federal government. Every time we ask for those dollars instead of paying for what we actually can afford locally, we immorally are borrowing dollars from our children and grandchildren. They will suffer economic harm tomorrow because of our greed today.

As Brooks put it, "The country either doesn't know or doesn't care about the burdens we are placing on our children. No coalition of leaders has successfully confronted the voters and made them heedful of the ruin they are bringing upon the nation."

So excuse me if I differ from those who think the economic anarchy on display in our nation's capital is not a local Colorado story. Honestly, I can't think of a more local, relevant story than that of how our immoral fiscal demands here at home affect the actions of our representatives in Washington.

To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.