The strange thing about Will Rogers, the great American satirist, is that the longer he’s dead the smarter he gets.
The presidential election cycle unofficially began the day after Labor Day. I found myself in the library pulling the works of Rogers, whose populist newspaper column began its run in the New York Times 100 years ago.
His observations read like they were written last week.
“Lord, the money we spend on government,” wrote Rogers. “And it’s not a bit better government than we got for one-third the money 20 years ago.”
Think about that. The federal budget under Joe Biden is three times what it was 20 years ago under George W. Bush. The federal deficit — what the government spends minus what it collects — is about three times more as a percentage of gross domestic product under Biden than it was under Bush.
Biden has made the same mistake, committing the United States to a costly and endless proxy war in the Ukraine. The billions in military and financial aid to a notoriously corrupt country is also financed through debt.
Will Rogers had an answer to this spiraling madness: “I have a scheme for stopping war. It’s this — no nation is allowed to enter war until they’ve paid for the last one.”
Members of Congress trip over themselves to genuflect at the olive-green cargo pants of Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Our representatives never come home with a stated end game.
This was true in Rogers’ time as well: “The taxpayers are sending congressmen on expensive trips abroad. It might be worth it, except they keep coming back.”
People today ache for a clear direction for the country. Instead, we get talking points and misdirection from the paid pipers of the political cesspool.
“If you ever injected truth into politics, you have no politics,” wrote Rogers.
Is there anything more untruthful than Bidenomics?
Default on consumer debt, auto loans and credit cards are at their highest levels in more than a decade. Because of inflation, more people are paying for necessities with their credit cards, and those interest rates, too, keep climbing. Another uncounted measure of inflation.
The jobs created in the last two-and-a-half years are mostly those recovered after being lost during COVID-19. But job creation has not kept pace with population growth. Real wages are down.
Personal consumption expenditures, or PCE, which measures changes in the cost of living and is used by the Fed to help determine interest rates, are at a high rate.
The Fed is in a pickle. If it raises interest rates again to cool inflation, it may cause a recession. If it lowers interest rates, the housing market may send inflation soaring again. In the 20 years spanning Bush to Obama to Trump to Biden, the government has printed money to pay for their promises. We’ve run out of gimmicks.
The only sane thing to do to bring fiscal and monetary policy in line is to cut spending and increase taxes. But that will never fly. Americans don’t trust their representatives.
Or as Rogers wrote: “The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.”
This election cycle is expected to be the most expensive in history. Some estimates peg political advertising alone to top $10 billion. And what choices will we have? Two cranks nobody wants to run.
I’m afraid Will Rogers was right.
“A fool and his money are soon elected.”