This article was originally published by John W. Whitehead at The Rutherford Institute.
“A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.”—Anonymous
Have you noticed that the government’s answer to every problem is more government—at taxpayer expense—and less individual liberty?
The Great Depression. The World Wars. The 9/11 terror attacks. The COVID-19 pandemic.
Every crisis—manufactured or otherwise—since the nation’s early beginnings has become a make-work opportunity for the government to expand its reach and its power at taxpayer expense while limiting our freedoms at every turn.
Indeed, the history of the United States is a testament to the old adage that liberty decreases as government (and government bureaucracy) grows. To put it another way, as government expands, liberty contracts.
To the police state, this COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge boon, like winning the biggest jackpot in the lottery. Certainly, it will prove to be a windfall for those who profit from government expenditures and expansions.
Given the rate at which the government has been devising new ways to spend our money and establish itself as the “solution” to all of our worldly problems, this current crisis will most likely end up ushering in the largest expansion of government power since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
This is how the emergency state operates, after all.
From 9/11 to COVID-19, “we the people” have acted the part of the helpless, gullible victims desperately in need of the government to save us from whatever danger threatens. In turn, the government has been all too accommodating and eager while also expanding its power and authority in the so-called name of national security.
As chief correspondent Dan Balz asks for The Washington Post, “Government is everywhere now. Where does it go next?”
When it comes to the power players that call the shots, there is no end to their voracious appetite for more: more money, more power, more control.
This expansion of government power is also increasing our federal debt in unprecedented leaps and bounds. Yet the government isn’t just borrowing outrageous amounts of money to keep the country afloat. It’s also borrowing indecent sums to pay for programs it can’t afford.
The government’s primary response to this COVID-19 pandemic—flooding the market with borrowed money in the amount of trillions of dollars for stimulus payments, unemployment insurance expansions, and loans to prop up small businesses and to keep big companies afloat—has pushed the country even deeper in debt.
By “the country,” I really mean the taxpayers. And by “the taxpayers,” it’s really future generations who will be shackled to debt loads they may never be able to pay back.
This is how you impoverish the future.
Democrats and Republicans alike have done this.
Without fail, every president within the last 50 years has expanded the nation’s debt. When President Trump took office on January 20, 2017, the national debt—the amount the federal government has borrowed over the years and must pay back—was a whopping $19.9 trillion. Despite Trump’s pledge to drain the swamp and eliminate the debt, the federal debt is now approaching $27 trillion and is on track to surpass $78 trillion by 2028.
For many years now, economists have warned that economic collapse would be inevitable if the national debt ever surpassed the size of the U.S. economy. The government passed that point in June 2020 and has yet to put the brakes on its spending.
In fact, the Federal Reserve just keeps printing more money in order to prop up the economy and float the debt.
At some point, something’s got to give.
As it now stands, the U.S. is among the most indebted countries in the world.
Most of the debt, however, is owed to the public.
How is this even possible? Essentially, it’s a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
First, the government requires taxpayers to pay a portion of their salaries to the Social Security Trust Fund. The government then turns around and borrows from Social Security to cover its spending needs. Then the government raises taxes or prints more money in order to pay out whatever is needed to the retirees.
It’s a form of convoluted economics that only makes sense to government bureaucrats looking to make a profit off the backs of the taxpayers.
According to the U.S. Debt Clock, each taxpayer’s share of the national debt is $214,000 and growing.
That’s almost five times more than the median income for what Americans earn in a year. That’s also almost five times more than the average American has in savings, across savings accounts, checking accounts, money market accounts, call deposit accounts, and prepaid cards. Almost 60% of Americans are so financially strapped that they don’t have even $500 in savings and nothing whatsoever put away for retirement.
Just the interest that must be paid on the national debt every year is $338 billion and growing. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the fastest-growing item in the budget over the next decade will be interest on the debt.
As the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reported in 2019, before COVID spending pushed the country over the fiscal cliff, “Interest payments will rise from $325 billion last year to $928 billion by 2029, a nearly threefold increase. If tax cuts and spending increases are extended, interest will exceed $1 trillion and set a new record as a share of the economy. The federal government will spend more on interest than on Medicaid or children by 2020. By 2024, interest will match defense spending.”
Bottom line: The U.S. government—and that includes the current administration—is spending money it doesn’t have on programs it can’t afford, and “we the taxpayers” are the ones who will have to pay for it.
As financial analyst Kristin Tate explains, “When the government has its debt bill come due, all of us will be on the hook.”
Despite the tax burden “we the people” are made to bear, we have no real say in how the government runs, or how our taxpayer funds are used, but we’re being forced to pay through the nose, anyhow.
We have no real say, but that doesn’t prevent the government from fleecing us at every turn and forcing us to pay for endless wars that do more to fund the military-industrial complex than protect us, pork-barrel projects that produce little to nothing, and a police state that serves only to imprison us within its walls.
All the while the government continues to do whatever it wants—levy taxes, rack up debt, spend outrageously and irresponsibly—with little thought for the plight of its citizens.
This brings me to a curious point: what the future will look like ten years from now when the federal debt is expected to surpass $78 trillion, an unsustainable level of debt that will result in unprecedented economic hardship for anyone that does not belong to the wealthy elite.
Interestingly enough, that timeline coincides with the government’s vision of the future as depicted in a Pentagon training video created by the Army for U.S. Special Operations Command.
According to the video, the government is anticipating trouble (read: civil unrest), which is code for anything that challenges the government’s authority, wealth, and power, and is grooming its armed forces (including its heavily armed federal agents) accordingly to solve future domestic political and social problems.
The training video, titled “Megacities: Urban Future, the Emerging Complexity,” is only five minutes long, but it provides a chilling glimpse of what the government expects the world to look like in 2030, a world bedeviled by “criminal networks,” “substandard infrastructure,” “religious and ethnic tensions,” “impoverishment, slums,” “open landfills, over-burdened sewers,” a “growing mass of unemployed,” and an urban landscape in which the prosperous economic elite must be protected from the impoverishment of the have nots.
And then comes the kicker.
Three-and-a-half minutes into the Pentagon’s dystopian vision of “a world of Robert Kaplan-esque urban hellscapes — brutal and anarchic supercities filled with gangs of youth-gone-wild, a restive underclass, criminal syndicates, and bands of malicious hackers,” the ominous voice of the narrator speaks of a need to “drain the swamps.”
Drain the swamps.
Surely, we’ve heard that phrase before?
Emblazoned on t-shirts and signs, shouted at rallies, and used as a rallying cry among Trump supporters, “drain the swamp” became one of Donald Trump’s most-used campaign slogans.
Far from draining the politically corrupt swamps of Washington DC of lobbyists and special interest groups, however, the Trump Administration has further mired us in a sweltering bog of corruption and self-serving tactics.
Funny how the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Now the government has adopted its own plans for swamp-draining, only it wants to use the military to drain the swamps of futuristic urban American cities of “noncombatants and engage the remaining adversaries in high-intensity conflict within.”
And who are these noncombatants, a military term that refers to civilians who are not engaged in fighting during a war?
They are, according to the Pentagon, “adversaries.”
They are “threats.”
They are the “enemy.”
They are people who don’t support the government, people who live in fast-growing urban communities, people who may be less well-off economically than the government and corporate elite, people who engage in protests, people who are unemployed, people who engage in crime (in keeping with the government’s fast-growing, overly broad definition of what constitutes a crime).
In other words, in the eyes of the U.S. military, noncombatants are American citizens a.k.a. domestic extremists a.k.a. enemy combatants who must be identified, targeted, detained, contained and, if necessary, eliminated.
Funny how closely fact tracks fiction these days.
Just recently, in fact, I re-watched Escape from L.A., John Carpenter’s 1996 post-apocalyptic action film that imagines a future (2013, in fact) in which the United States has elected a president for life who runs the country according to his own theocratic moral law. Anyone who runs afoul of the president’s moral laws is stripped of their citizenship and either electrocuted or deported to the island of Los Angeles, a penal colony where lawlessness reigns supreme.
As the film’s opening narrator recounts:
In the late 20th century, hostile forces inside the United States grow strong. The city of Los Angeles is ravaged by crime and immorality. To protect and defend its citizens, the United States Police Force is formed. A presidential candidate predicts a millennium earthquake will destroy L.A. in divine retribution. The earthquake measuring 9.6 on the Richter scale hits at 12:59 P.M. August 23rd in the year 2000. After the devastation, the Constitution is amended, and the newly elected president accepts a lifetime term of office. The country’s capital is moved from Washington, D.C., to the president’s hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia. Los Angeles Island is declared no longer part of the United States and becomes the deportation point for all people found undesirable or unfit to live in the new, moral America. The United States Police Force, like an army, is encamped among the shorelines, making any escape from L.A. impossible. From the southeastern hills of Orange County to the northwestern shore of Malibu, the great wall excludes L.A. from the mainland. The president’s first act as permanent Commander in Chief is Directive 17: once an American loses his or her citizenship, they are deported to this island of the damned, and they never come back.
Carpenter is a brilliant filmmaker whose dystopian visions of the future are eerily prescient, but this film is particularly unnerving: environmental disasters; engineered viruses used like weapons to control the masses; riots and looting that leave the populace longing for law and order; religion used as a weapon; martial law; surveillance that keeps every citizen under the government’s watchful eye; and a growing awareness that the only path to freedom left for humanity is to shut down the government and start over again.
We’re almost there now.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, unless we make some effort to reject the sorry excuse for a representative government that we have been saddled with, the future that awaits us—whether it’s the future envisioned by the Pentagon in its training video or the future imagined by Carpenter—will be a living nightmare from which there is no escape.