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Time to hunker down

August 17, 2008|By ROBERT GARY

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the canaries in the coal mine in terms of forewarning us of solvency problems in the federal government. You may think Uncle Sam is always safe because, after all, he has the printing presses and if he runs out of money he can always just print some more.

That didn't work in the Weimar Republic in 1923 or in Argentina from 1975 to 1991. A government can ruin its paper money to the point that no matter how fast it runs the presses it can't pay the utility bill to keep the presses rolling.

The answer is not paper, it's discipline. Look at the case of a family. In good times the family provides all sorts of donations to the community, money, time, articles of value, services, and general support for the local town, and maybe state. But what happens when hard times come? The family has to provide first and foremost for its own members.

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The USA is like that. When business is booming and there are plenty of good jobs and lots of revenues the USA can help the whole world. We can put boots on the ground in six or eight other nations, (some of whom don't really want us there). We can take care of 12 million people from one of our neighbor nations by giving them jobs, medical, educational and social services benefits. We can bring in oil from the Persian Gulf and pump it directly into electric power stations in Florida. We can pay our executives eight-figure compensation packages in exchange for their work, which often involves exporting American jobs to India and China. We can use trade as an instrument of diplomacy.

But when things get hard, it would not be surprising if we do some restructuring so that the benefits of this country's strengths and assets flow to family members rather than outsiders - citizens rather than foreigners. The desire to pull in the resources and focus them at home is natural, ethical and appropriate.

Sealing our southern border and repatriating the illegal 12 million would mean that we have to cut our own lettuce, make our own beds, lay our own sidewalks and mow our own grass. At a price, these are all things that Americans would be willing to do. The price of having these things done by our neighbors is estimated at $300 trillion over the next 50 years, if their children and grandchildren stay here and require the level of services and infrastructure that the first 12 million have absorbed.

If we do go to one-payer universal health care, how should the children and grandchildren of the present illegals be treated? These families have many children, the breadwinners earn minimum wage and childbearing starts very early. Assuming that there's anything left after the descendants of the illegal 12 million have had their fill from the universal health-care system, what would be fair for the rest of us? On Jan. 20, 2009, somebody is going to sit down at the big desk where the buck stops. Whoever that is better not wait until that day to start thinking about these problems.

Throughout our history until the end of World War II, the traditional purpose of the military was always to fight. It was never about running a police force, or a humanitarian force, or a nation-building force. How these activities became part of our national defense doctrine is a puzzle. Somewhere along the line we became missionaries for democracy, seekers of the hearts and minds of foreign peoples. I have no doubt that noble motives were guiding us in these directions, but they are not consistent with the sustainable solvency of our own country. Now, we must desist from their further pursuit.

Today the classic military mission can best be done from the air with ballistic missiles, long and medium-range bombers, cruise missiles and predator unmanned aerial vehicles. We need never have another war. No more boots, no more ground. Just sneakers on the linoleum at Battle Mountain and in the trailers at Southern Command. If the enemy builds nuclear devices, we de-capacitate by blowing up the equipment. If the enemy runs vast networks of terrorists, we decapitate - death from the sky. This is a routine activity that we must plan to do for decades. But simply, without fanfare, without opera. Real power consists in being a solvent good neighbor that earns the trust of civilized nations by its mind-its-own-business conduct, and that is feared by aggressive barbarians because, when threatened, it methodically and quietly renders them helpless or dead.

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