The issue of the day / month is supposedly the exploding national deficit, which unless addressed at some point by a combination of increasing revenues and decreasing outlays will eventually create an insolvent US gov't.
One might think we're at a crossroads of sorts... reign in gov't spending or increase taxes or both or else!! More-over, given the political fights of late one might even think that a U.S. insolvency is imminant... i.e. the near immediate future.
It fact it is not an imminant issue in any fiscal or economic term.
What makes it appear to be "imminant" is a politically manufactured one .. where the GOP having a house majority with a democratic president & a mild majority in the senate is creating the appearance of imminance by using the up-coming debt ceiling limit in the pivital roll.
While there's no doubt that the long term use of continued U.S. policies is unsustainable, there is also no doubt that the debt ceiling must be increased if for no other reasons than 1) it's impossible to cap spending or raise revenues immediately to keep the current debt ceiling, and 2) inflation will in any event force the debt ceiling to increase anyway.
What in fact though makes continued US policies unsustainable over the long run? That is the real question we ultimately have to deal with, though certainly not necessarily in this congress.
There is only one problem with the currently unstainable policy --- costs of health care increasing at rates well beyond those of inflation coupled with the fact that baby-boomers will be entering the 65 year old status in increasing numbers beginning 2012. If health care inflation rates were on par with inflation the unsustainabilty issue would be managable with increased federal & state revenues from a recovered economy and some health care cost management.
What is obvious is that the average OECD nation's health care costs are half of ours, so it's not really an issue of health care costs at all. What I mean by this is that there's a long proven, clear, well established, & sustainable means to halve or nearly halve US health care spending without cutting benefits or decreasing health care outcomes. Given that this is clear and obvious, then health care spending costs aren't the real issue at all... rather its an issue created by a completely different one ---- which is the popularly cited 'big' gov't v 'small' gov't philisophical debate that's been going on since before the constitutional convention... in fact during the continental congress.
I say "popularly" cited philisophical issue because this is not really about a philisophical issue at all, but it's couched in those terms to hide / obscure / obfuscate the real debate. The real debate is about money, who gets and deserves it, and how. This issue goes all the way back to the Calvinist religious doctrine and capitalist economic system genisis with the fall of total royal control to give control to parliaments along more/less democratic lines of governmental philosophy.
The Calivinist and Capitalist doctrines combine to say those who have or acquire are entitled to it and whatever more of it they can acquire, and those who have-not need to work harder & more to get to the promised land. While the Calivinist doctrine works well in economies where there are more jobs to be done than there are people available to do them, it pretty much falls apart when there are more people than there are jobs... leaving the have-nots in perpetual and ever-increasing poverty and dependant on charity & the church. As far as the capitalist doctrine is concerned it's telling that it wasn't even until 1890 that the Sherman Anti-Trust law was passed to limit capitalists from monopolizing economic power.
Thus, if there's a cross-roads coming that must be dealth with, the issue is only who gets the money and how.
- If gov't continues to favor private enterprise over the greater public good by policy and law then the issue will then become how to deal with the have-nots survival and quality of life both in terms of their lives during employment ages and afterwards in retirement (or when no longer considered employable... which-ever comes first). Health care is but a part of this issue.
- If the gov't eventually decides to favor the greater public good over private enterprise those that prosper under private enterprise will have to give up a greater share of their wealth and income, meaning their ability to acquire more will be reduced --- not eliminated, but reduced.
Hence the real debate is not related to "imminant" national deficity spending caps or U.S. insolvency at all... that's just the popular political propoganda designed to pursuade an emotional electorate to fear, uncertainty, & doubt. FUD works... it always has.
Sooner or later the real issue will have to be dealth with ---- the US will have to decide how to deal with it's under-employed, under-educated, its elder population, and whether its morally obliged to do in a fair and dignified fashion. I'm of the opinion that resorting to conservative principles founded on Calvinist religious doctrine are not in the best interests of a modern society.