Mountain Home was fortunate to host U.S. Senator Mike Crapo during a town hall meeting last Tuesday. For the handful of people that attended, it was a rare opportunity to get an unvarnished perspective from one of the nation's senior leaders.
The story in this week's edition of the Mountain Home News regarding his visit paints a fairly bleak -- dare I say Apocalyptic -- outlook of the nation's economy, based on the information the senator presented during his opening remarks. However, the information regarding the national deficit as well as the debt the United States owes to its lenders isn't something that really took me by surprise.
I suppose it was only a matter of time before someone came forward with this information.
Granted, I'm no wizard when it comes to understanding the intricate details on how the U.S. government operates. However, when our elected officials are spending more money than they're bringing in, that raises one really big red flag.
I suppose what really concerns me is the number of elected officials who don't think we have a problem when it comes to the economy. After all, we can always print more money, right?
In a simplistic sense, the situation our country faces reminds me of a child going to his parents wanting an advance on his allowance to buy candy, comic books or video games. When the money runs out, he continues to go back and ask for another advance... and another... and another.
In the end, the child has nothing left except an empty pocket and candy wrappers, a few comic books scattered around his bedroom and a bunch of video games that he'll quickly grow tired of playing. About the only thing he has left is the debt he now has to somehow pay back.
Depending on his parents, it's a safe bet they'll want something in return. Now in a typical household, that could mean having to mow the yard a few extra weeks or having to wash dishes or the family car to repay what he owes.
In the case of our nation, the U.S. government has a whole lot of people that it owes a whole lot of money. That number is in not in the millions or billions of dollars. It's actually in the trillions -- yes, I said trillions -- of dollars.
And like the child, our country really doesn't have a lot to show for all the money that it's spent so far. It went to a whole lot of programs that from what I can tell didn't do a whole lot of good, nor did they help stimulate the U.S. economy as we were promised.
The Cash for Clunkers program is a fairly good example of good money going into a bad deal. From what I can tell, the U.S. car industry really didn't seem to benefit at all, despite the amount of money pumped into that program. The auto industry in Japan, on the other hand, seemed to fare a whole lot better.
Let's also not forget to remember the banking industry, especially the mortgage firms that loaned huge sums of money to Americans, who then used that money to buy up pieces of real estate as if they were shares of stock. And when the housing market collapsed and the value of homes began to plummet, instead of punishing the banks that backed those risky loans, the government ended up giving them a bailout, emphasizing they were "too big to fail."
Meanwhile, there were a whole lot of Americans who ended up getting burned in that deal. They ended up with homes they could no longer afford, which were later repossessed by -- big surprise here -- the banks that offered those high-risk loans to begin with.
I'm still trying to figure out how and why this makes sense, but I still don't have an answer.
Now in the matter of fairness, I have to take every statistic with a healthy grain of salt, especially those dealing with money. After all, any economist or statistician can take any stack of numbers and come up with completely different conclusions.
However, I don't think this is the case when it comes to the national debt. There's enough truth out there that we've been spending the "allowance" of hard-working Americans, and someone's going to come looking for their money.
We're seeing that happening right now in Greece. Just a few days ago, the people of that country overwhelmingly voted against a plan that could've kept the country's economy afloat a little bit longer by accepting another bailout from members of the European Union while having to "tighten their belts" in return.
To be perfectly honest, I have no idea how that situation is going to play out. However, my gut tells me that Greece is in a whole lot of trouble, and what I've seen so far is just the beginning.
Are we looking at facing the same type of "financial Armageddon" here? I really wish I knew.
However, I do know that our lawmakers need to take a very hard look at their budget and find ways to start saving money. After all, we gave them an "advance on their allowance" more times than we care to count. It's time for our elected officials to give us something in return.
-- Brian S. Orban