Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Something's got to give (or the budget blues)

The Heritage Foundation released its latest budget analysis last week (executive summary here; hat tip to the Dish). According to the conservative think tank, federal spending under Republican leadership has gotten out of hand. (Surprise, surprise-- where were these guys four years ago?) And of course, tax breaks for America's beleaguered billionaires didn't help the situation.

If you rely on government spending for anything at all -- and if you think you don't, you're wrong -- you had better brace for bad times. Something's got to give.

One curious quote from the analysis:

The 2006–2050 budget picture is even more dis­mal. Because of the cost of fully funding Social Secu­rity, Medicare, and Medicaid, leading long-term budget projections have calculated that federal spending will increase from the current 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to a peacetime high of nearly 33 percent of GDP by 2050.[1]

Peacetime high? What's to suggest that we'll be in peacetime in 2050? Given recent speeches by prominent Republicans (and some prominent Democrats for that matter) it sounds like we've reached a century of Orwellian permanent war. Forget federal spending on education, national parks, highway infrastructure, or health care. We won't get it if things continue. War is expensive. Permanent war is crippling, both to soldiers and to our long-term national economic health.

All of this impacts education directly because as the deficit rises and as the costs of foreign wars continue to escalate, our schools will lose out. If that happens -- that is, if this country doesn't change leadership at the ballot box soon -- the knowledge and skills of our citizenry will decline and as our citizens go, so goes our country.


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