One always hopes to end the year on a high note, but politically speaking, at least, that is difficult again in 2022. One searches in vain for advances in individual liberty and setbacks for power.
Sure, with the receding of the pandemic, life has returned to normal in many respects. But the ratchet effect that Robert Higgs identified still is the rule. After a rise in government power in response to a crisis (real or imagined), the drop-back is never complete because those who wield power have had their appetite whetted. The precedent itself presents a new threat. If the federal and state governments could so easily shut down virtually all of society (because of a virus that threatened mainly old and sick people), they could do so again. What’s even more ominous is how so-called public-health officials and other government agents stigmatized dissenters, no matter how good their credentials, who might have stoked public opposition to the historic infringement of their liberty.
Other political fronts are no more encouraging. The central government is spending obscene amounts of money, so it obviously doesn’t need a pandemic to get away with it. Congress has allocated $858 billion to the Pentagon, which is apparently more than the Biden administration asked for. Some $44 billion more is in the offing in support of Ukraine against Russia, bringing the year’s total to over $100 billion. (Russia’s war is indefensible, but the U.S. and Ukrainian governments are not blameless.)
This military spending has bipartisan support, prompting a two-part question: why do so many “responsible” people 1) think bipartisanship is dead and 2) wish for its resurrection? In an important way, politics is not polarized nearly enough! What we need is a more pronounced polarization over opposing principles: liberty and power.
Need I point out that all that spending has bad consequences? The government will borrow a goodly portion of what it spends, and the Federal Reserve will then create money to buy up that debt. The conjured-up money will join the previously created fiat money in chasing the existing supply of goods and services, pushing prices up even more. That’s inflation, which already is eating our purchasing power and savings. Interest rates are prices, by the way, which means they will rise too now that lenders expect money to be worth less in the future. This increases the government’s (and our) cost of borrowing. So interest on the debt will grow, requiring more borrowing, and so on. Bad outcomes breed more bad outcomes.
Imagine if the politicians and bureaucrats did not have our best interests at heart!
For the record, as Eric Boehm at Reason reports, “The government spent $501 billion in November but collected just $252 billion in revenue, meaning that about 50 cents of every dollar spent were borrowed.”
But that’s not all. “And now Congress is gearing up to spend even more,” Boehm writes. That’s because before year’s end, Congress will send Biden a $1.7 trillion omnibus (translation: everything-including-the-kitchen-sink) spending bill.
All of this comes as the current occupant of the White House insists that the budget deficit is declining. Boehm writes,
That was always misleading, as the falling deficit was entirely the result of one-time, emergency COVID-19 spending coming off the books. The underlying figures showed all along that the deficit situation was continuing to worsen, and that President Joe Biden’s policies were adding trillions of dollars to the deficit over the long term.
November’s spending and revenue figures should put an end to these silly games. We’re only two months into the fiscal year, but the federal government is now on pace to run a deficit of about $1.9 trillion, which would be the largest nonpandemic budget deficit ever and a huge increase from the $1.38 trillion deficit in the fiscal year that ended on September 30.
Excuse me, $1.9 trillion? In nominal terms, that’s bigger than Bill Clinton’s final budget. Not that it would be preferable for the government to raise taxes, mind you. What is needed are massive spending cuts via the elimination of entire departments, programs, and missions. Let’s start with the military by liquidating the empire.
Enough of that bit of depressing news. Let’s turn to something else: the revelation that Twitter (and presumably all the social media) worked closely with the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Pentagon, and other government agencies to monitor our posts and promote their own propaganda. First Amendment violations surely occurred. Government officials need not have commanded Twitter to suppress posts they did not like. They didn’t even have to wink. They’re government officials, after all.
It wasn’t all about keeping information about Hunter Biden’s laptop and dissenting views on COVID-19 away from the public, though. The Pentagon used Twitter to spread its propaganda about Russia, China, Iran, and other subjects through covert accounts. It identified many of these accounts for Twitter so they would be protected, and for years several Twitter accommodated the U.S. military’s campaign to mislead the public.
Because Twitter’s new chief, Elon Musk, made these disclosures possible, one might think this is a welcome high note on which to end the year. Maybe. On the other hand, Musk does not inspire confidence. His vacillations and murky definition of “free-speech absolutist” suggest he has no clear idea of how he sees the platform. The whole thing seems so half-baked.
I could mention Congress’s failure to stop the war in Yemen (damn Bernie Sanders), the threatening rise of national conservatism, and the heavy yoke of wokeism, but I’ll stop. Let’s rest up to resume the battle. Happy Holidays!