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Stop the bleeding; save the patient

The Augusta Chronicle It’s not just the number of promising young lawmakers and other new leaders elected Tuesday that is encouraging for the future of this country. It’s also the apparent quality of them. From the U.S. Senate to the U.S. House to hundreds of state offices across the country, it does appear as if, as Kennedy said in his inaugural address, “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.” The good thing about the country’s deepening financial and leadership crisis is that it has inspired hundreds if not thousands of bright, exciting and diverse young Americans to accept the responsibility of leading us in a new, fiscally sound and more hopeful direction. They will become this nation’s “first responders,” sent to resuscitate the republic. They will have their work cut out for them. Both major parties have taken the country to the edge of insolvency, but Democrats in Congress and the White House have put the accelerator to the floor while steering us toward the cliff. Many experts now believe that the egregious overspending in Washington could help collapse the dollar and bring on a type of hyperinflation experienced in Argentina and the Weimar Republic. Pray it’s not too late for this new generation of leaders to change our course. We’re encouraged by the emergence of staunch fiscal conservatives and fresh faces such as Sen.-elect Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen.-elect Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. And the fact that incumbent Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin will be House Budget Committee chairman – Ryan probably has the best head for fiscal sanity in Washington – is just exciting. We hope establishment Republicans and Democrats will work in earnest with this new set of leaders, who are coming to Washington with the most fervent mandate of our time – in many ways larger and more urgent than the Republican Revolution’s mandate of 1994. Our fiscal problems are that much worse. Further, we hope our entrenched friends in Washington understand the nature of the mandate: that federal spending and the growth of government not just be slowed but be turned back. USA Today reported the magnitude of the problem last weekend: While states, counties and cities and school districts have tightened their belts in recent years, the federal “wasteline” has only expanded. ”In the past year,” the newspaper reported, “state and local (government) employment has been reduced, mostly through not filling vacancies, by 258,000, or 1.3 percent, to 19.2 million workers … The federal workforce, meanwhile, grew 3.4 percent to 2.2 million in the past year.” Someone is denying reality – and openly violating the laws of economics. To further illustrate just how out of touch with reality Washington’s spending practices are, at the same time the federal workforce has grown 3.4 percent, the private workforce has shrunk by 6.6 percent since December 2007. The real elephant in the room, though, is entitlements: In addition to the near-$14 trillion in day-to-day debt the government has piled up to this point, it also owns $60 trillion to $100 trillion in future unfunded liabilities, in the form of promises made by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. So, a country that is already overspending itself by $14 trillion must eventually find another $60 trillion or more just for entitlements. The sooner we grab a tourniquet and stop the day-to-day bleeding, the sooner we can try to save the patient – which is, of course, the republic itself. We just hope the first-responders aren’t too late.

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