Okay, so the title is obviously overstated, but bear with me. Yesterday I was playing Sid Meier's popular computer game, Civilization V, when I realized my economy was floundering. And by "floundering," I mean I couldn't afford to buy a toothpick. Why? Because for decades, my government had been spending too much and making too little. This should sound familiar.
As I analyzed the situation my chosen faction (the Greeks) had gotten into, I realized there were three main reasons my economy had crashed. First, I was making way too little money. Second, despite this fact, military spending had blossomed over the past few in-game years. I had troops spread out all over the world -- in England, Germany, and Japan -- and the upkeep for these troops was proving a constant sore on my economy. Third, to compound the previous two problems, I was spending endlessly on entitlements to improve the "happiness" of my citizens. I spent a good 10 minutes feeling down about these developments; how could I ever recover?
Easy. I cut military spending (which meant withdrawing troops from a few places), cut entitlement spending, and raised revenue (there is no tax system in Civilization V, but in reality this would involve raising taxes). Within a few in-game years my economy was chugging along like a well-oiled train.
How did I fix my economy so fast? To be frank, I was able to do so because, in Civilization V, I am a dictator. I can take steps that would piss off both American conservatives (cutting military spending, raising revenue) and liberals (cutting entitlements) without any gridlock or useless, incessant, maddening debate.
At this point in our short history, we Americans are facing a debt crisis. To solve this problem, we -- like my Greek civilization in Civilization V -- need to raise revenue (by raising taxes) and cut expenditure (by cutting military spending and entitlements in a circumspect, wise manner). Notice what I am not saying; I am not saying that this path is right for every single situation. Indeed, when my economy in Civilization V is doing well, I take every step I can to keep my citizens happy -- even if this means things like very low tax rates and very high entitlement spending. But when you are facing a debt crisis, the steps are simple: cut spending, increase revenue. This pisses off both Republicans and Democrats, but the solution -- however painful -- works, in history and in Civilization V.
Perhaps our congressmen should play some Civilization V.