At the beginning, I am biased. I live on the Chesapeake Bay.
Our nation’s finances remind me of where I live. The Bay, like our nation’s finances, has been used and abused. Hundreds of thousands of acres of forest land were converted to cities, suburbs and a wide range of commercial, agricultural and residential uses. Generations of persons fortunate enough to live along a watershed that extends from Cooperstown, NY to Norfolk, VA paid too little attention to what washed into the Bay. We are now making progress on the recovery of its water quality and dependent flora and fauna.
Not content with earlier budget priorities, the Trump administration recommends that the cleanup fund for the Bay be reduced from $73 million a year in 2016 to zero. President Donald Trump, at the same time, put off reform in what are called entitlement programs. It is these entitlement programs, up and down the various layers of local, state and federal budgets, that pillory our nation’s economic strength just as aggressive development attacked the Bay’s watershed.
Benefits to be paid in the future have been, with few exceptions, underestimated and underfunded. Social Security and Medicare are just the most evident national examples. This underfunded liability distorts budgets and often pinches needed programs and reforms. And as the cost of servicing the debt increases, the pain of profligacy will get worse.
Tomorrow is not unconnected from today. If we mess things up, we have to pay. When we fail to fully fund our promises, the liability becomes a dead weight on the backs of our progeny and erodes trust in the full faith and credit of the United States.
Speaking of trust, in an especially deft phrase, Tom Friedman, columnist for the New York Times, noted that “government moves at the speed of trust.”
The trust that is being squandered by the president’s erratic use of insults, slights, fights and worse will be a dead weight in the years to come. International allies will first be wrong-footed and then will attempt to avoid meaningful collaboration.
His political competitors will, to their eventual damage, simply be anti-Trump — as if that is all the public needs to know.
Most media will specialize in criticism while the few that are more comfortable with the president will risk their reputations. Both versions will further discredit an important institution — the media that needs repaired.
It is hard to know how this ends or whether there is any possibility that Trump will cease to manufacture and distribute weapons to those who relish the chance to use them.
Since I believe both parties are disintegrating, I am looking for new political leadership that will offer a way out of this mess. Hopefully, leadership will emerge that is honest about the nation’s finances. Most importantly, we need to speak truth to power about our fiscal mess and not just the part that interests us.
Photo by likeaduck
Al Sikes’ leadership helped shape the arc of 21st century communication technologies from positions as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and then President of Hearst New Media. In 2004, the Manhattan Institute chose Sikes as one of eight winners of the Social Entrepreneurship Award for having founded READ ALLIANCE, which trains teenagers to tutor children with reading deficiencies. Sikes second book, Culture Leads Leaders Follow was recently published by Koehler Books.