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Washington’s grande bouffe

Massive debts don’t stop Congress from piling up more and more

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When all is lost, there is a type of man who will decide to go out in style. Take The Bucket List (2007), a film about two elderly gentlemen with nothing in common except a terminal diagnosis, who demur to go gentle into that good night, and set out instead to tick off their bucket list in the short time that remains.

Or consider a man in trouble of his own making who, rather than opting for restraint and course ­correction, proceeds whole hog on the path that got him into the jam he’s in. In La Grande Bouffe (1973), four decadent friends make up their minds to eat themselves to death with sumptuous feasting in a French villa.

Movies are not your thing? To the Bible, then. How about the four lepers ostracized and doomed to certain death who decide they have nothing to lose by going over to the enemy and turning themselves in, who then are gobsmacked to find a camp deserted in haste and the food all left behind. They proceed to gorge themselves (2 Kings 7:3-20).

“Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” might be a good caption for the go-for-broke mindset encapsulated in these scenes, this throwing all caution to the wind—but with apologies first to Adm. David Glasgow Farragut, who uttered the words in a more glorious context in the 1864 Battle of Mobile Bay.

The related vignettes come to mind as I consider with a certain terrified wonder the profligacy and almost gleeful abandon with which our federal government is throwing around dollars to the tune of a trillion here and a trillion there. Pretty soon that’s big money, as the joke goes. You will agree that it’s a phenomenon we have never quite seen before in America. I want to pen a letter to D.C. along the following lines:

“Dear Washington, you have overspent our money and refused to live within your budget. There is not a social program you have not lusted after. If that were not bad enough, when you saw your own state of financial untenableness, rather than cutting back, you have decided to print more money to pay for the resulting deficits. Thus you have created more dollars chasing after fewer goods, resulting in higher prices, with no end in sight. Please explain. Yours truly, J.Q. Citizen.”

The new and very curious thing is the lack of federal hand-wringing. At least they used to wring their hands. At least they made the pretense of self-flagellation and newfound earnestness, and ran on promises to rein it in. All of that is gone now. Now they’re like drunken sailors, too inebriated to be bothered anymore with sound fiscal policy. The attitude seems to be, We have thrown so much money away! Let’s throw some more!

Is there a flash point reached in the psyche where the government figured, like Ugo, Philippe, Marcello, and Michel in La Grande Bouffe: “What the heck, we’re all going to die anyway, may as well go out with a bang.” Have they darkly reasoned, like King Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:19), that at least it won’t catch up with them in their day?

Unless the truth is even worse. What I mean is, suppose this suicidal dance is not stupidity but deliberate? Preposterous, you say? Well, if a set of policies, day after day, all tend to destruction, the thinking man should at least consider the possibility that it is not accidental but on purpose, as a means to achieving some political purpose, Cloward-Piven style.

As for me, I take comfort in that God will have the last word after all the trumpets, seals, and bowls are spent.

Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine. Her columns have been compiled into three books including Won’t Let You Go Unless You Bless Me. Andrée resides near Philadelphia.


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