THE BLOG
04/10/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Le Deluge

It's time to admit that the Right Wing has achieved its main goal and that all the sturm und drang now drifting from those quarters is an attempt to change the subject in hopes we won't notice.

Hopefully, they won't dodge the blame, but like it or not, they got what they wanted: The government will have to shrink under the weight of a national debt that quadrupled under Reagan/Bush I, leveled off under Clinton, then doubled again under Bush II.

For an excellent presentation on the facts of the national debt, click here. But take my word for it -- that debt's eating us alive. And while the guys who did this to us sit around the pool, the rest of us will have to live with the consequences -- intended and otherwise. The only good news is that even though they don't realize it, the Right Wing has strapped itself to those unintended consequences, and unless the nation is suddenly seized with a fit of forgetfulness, the result, for them, shouldn't be pretty.

That's because the crisis they created will do a lot more than just shrink the government. The $12 trillion in debt we have today is enough to make our creditors wonder if we'll be able to pay them back, which reasonable fear, in turn, is making them wonder if the Dollar can remain the world's reserve currency. And it will make us a second-rate power.

Calls to replace the Dollar with a basket of currencies are widespread these days, because as far as our creditors go -- that includes Japan, Great Britain, Brazil and Canada, not just China and Russia -- it's strictly a matter of self-preservation.

Japan, for instance, owns $751.5 billion in US Treasuries. The Dollar has been falling for over a year; what would you be thinking, if you were Japan's Minister of Finance? You can bet he and the world's other Finance Ministers are not just sitting around, waiting for something to happen.

And when the Dollar becomes just another currency in that "basket", it'll come out of our domestic hide, in the form of higher borrowing costs across the board. For us, that means slower economic growth.

Will that mean government will shrink? You betcha. But first, governments will try to hold on by selling off assets. Think: Bridges;.harbors. hospitals. the Interstate Highway System.

Then will come the cuts in programs. But they're unlikely to be what the Right Wing thought they'd be; so-called entitlements will probably be last, not first.

Why? Because at some point, while the government will have to look at cutting future benefits for those 55 and under, Social Security and Medicare are what keep most parents from having to rely on their kids when they retire. With the cost of living still on the rise and wages stagnant, will the kids of those 55-year-olds really be able to shoulder the costs? And will they want to? So the main pressure will be to keep those cuts to a minimum as voters pressure their Congressmembers out of self-interest -- one of the mainstays of Right Wing philosophy.

And since the public recognizes that lax regulation of business is much of what got us into the economic mess we're in today, its appetite to cut regulations further is unlikely to grow; if anything, the public will want more of it. So those functions of government will not shrink very much -- not such a bad thing, if the proof is in the pudding.

Since we're not going to be defaulting on the national debt, that leaves our presence overseas -- including defense, which is $663.8 billion in the 2010 budget, or almost half the $1.5 trillion deficit.

Despite predictable screaming from the jingo Right, the question will become: What are we defending? The job of global cop?

Do we really need that job, or the armies that go with it? Or a 284-ship Navy -- including 12 aircraft carrier battle groups costing $35 billion a year? What about the Air Force's 5,573 aircraft?

We may very well have the greatest military the world has ever seen, but thanks to the Right Wing, we're on the verge of being unable to afford it, or being the world's preeminent power, much longer. We're more in the way of being like a family with two vehicles -- a family sedan, and a Porsche.

As those tough times drag on -- and in the wake of what's still being called "the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression," the economic consensus is for very slow growth and high unemployment for years to come -- domestic problems will come to the political fore. People's sentiment will be to look after our own. So much for the Porsche, no?

Oh, and by the way, taxes are going to rise, whatever the Right Wing says. As The Economist magazine wrote in May 2009: "Having spent a fortune bailing out their banks, Western governments will have to pay a price in terms of higher taxes to meet the interest on that debt."

The alternative, it says, is to allow their currencies to depreciate, or their economies to inflate, to be able to repay their debts with cheaper money. All of which brings us back to that basket of currencies, and what it would mean when the Dollar loses its reserve currency status. It has all the inevitability of something from Aeschylus.

If there was every a time for the country to come together to deal with a common problem, this is it, but as we said earlier, the Right Wing is trying everything to change the subject so we won't remember who got us into this disaster. They're proving, every day, that they're simply not reliable partners.

Not that the Democrats are showing any backbone. But, willy-nilly, we can't let the Right Wing shuck their responsibility for making the United States a second-rate power -- an unintended consequence if there ever was one, but one they're certainly guilty of.

That fact's got to be raised as often as possible, in as many forums as possible, by as many people as possible, so that even if things get as bad as that might get, the poisons they've released on the body politic can be dissipated -- never, we hope, to return.