Will the American electorate ever come to grips with paying for what they vote for politicians to "give" them?
Voters give politicians their vote because they promise to “give” us goodies or “give” us tax cuts. Cutting programs is never popular. Look at the unrest in France over the idea of raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 to avoid bankruptcy. Apparently, nobody is willing to even consider the thought that if the French want early retirement, and yet are living much longer, they might actually raise their already high tax rate to pay for it.
This question comes from a quote often misattributed to Alesxis de Tocqueville or Alexander Fraser Tytler, that runs along the lines of, “Democracy (or The American Republic) will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money.” It actually comes from an American newspaper article in The Daily Oklahoman (9 December 1951) in which Elmer T. Peterson wrote: “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.”
The US National Debt today is around $13.6 trillion. Democrats and Republicans squabble over who ran it up and who will pay it off—while making no serious efforts to do anything other than add to it. The truth is that in today’s dollars, it was just $2 trillion when Ronald Reagan slashed taxes for the rich, winning the hearts and minds of the people. Since then, the three Republican Presidencies have added $8.8 trillion to the current deficit and Clinton plus Obama’s first 2 years can be charged with $2.3 trillion.
Clinton actually began paying the debt down, so most of the Democratic contribution is from Obama, and some of this goes to rescuing the economy from the Great Recession of 2007. Perhaps Mr. Peterson had it wrong. The voters are not voting for more gifts, but to keep all they have but year after year pay way less for it..
As the above link shows, the debt as a percent of Gross Domestic Product was considerably higher after the massive cost of WWII, and we paid that debt down. Do you think we will grow up as an electorate and eventually vote to tax ourselves enough to pay for what we get from government, or drastically cut what government does for us? Or will we just slide into bankruptcy and whatever that brings with it? What does happen if we default on our debt to foreign powers? Wealth doesn’t just evaporate, it flows from place to place. If we vote to just go broke, who ends up with all the wealth that’s been transferred out of the USA?