Ahh, the budget deficit.
Not exactly the most riveting topic, but in terms of importance, it’s gotta be right up there. (By the way, if you’re looking for an easily digestible primer on what’s going on, check out these two brief videos on Khan Academy: “Deficit and Debt Ceiling” and “Government’s Financial Condition“.)
Part of the frustration about all of this is that we find a Congress — and even special committees within Congress — unable to compromise on solutions, from cutting existing spending to changing existing revenue policies (i.e. taxes).
In that context, I was struck by this quote from Alexander Hamilton from 1790. Here’s a founder who probably wouldn’t be that surprised by what’s occurring some two and a half centuries later:
“Whoever considers the nature of our government with discernment will see that though obstacles and delays will frequently stand in the way of the adoption of good measures, yet when once adopted, they are likely to be stable and permanent. It will be far more difficult to undo than to do.”
In other words, once a policy (cuts or revenue) is approved, it’s more than just enacted, it’s entrenched. Due to our system of government, this is a highly effective political strategy.
It’s why spending one seems to go in one direction. And why it’s so hard to get tax reform.