The Battle of Midway took place just over seventy years ago. This is the IJN Mogami which was sunk on the second day of the battle.
It was a turning point in the Pacific Theatre during WW2 and represented a massive victory for the United States. Four of Japan’s fleet carriers were sunk and thousands of experienced sailors, airmen, and maintenance personnel were lost. These were never fully replaced and the Imperial Japanese Navy gradually lost its strength during subsequent battles. After Midway, the Empire of Japan was on the defensive and steadily lost territory in its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Eventually, Japan surrendered to the Allies in August 1945.
The fact is though, even if Japan had won Midway it would have eventually lost the war. Time, resources, and technology were all on the American side, which would prove overwhelming to Japan. Admiral Yamamoto and many of the other top officers in the Imperial Japanese Navy knew this even as they drew up their plans before the war. A fight against the might of the United States was a loosing proposition even before it started.
Why the history lesson?
Think about the fiscal path we are on in the United States. Take the $16 Trillion National Debt, add other unfunded government liabilities (ex. Medicare Part D), then add other public debt (from states, counties, and cities), plus other liabilities that are “off the books” and you have a problem of mind-blowing proportions. Its only going to get worse as more Baby Boomers retire and the economy remains stuck in neutral. There are other factors that are weighing our country down (obesity, stress, broken families, lousy education, skills gaps, etc.) but the one that is somewhat quantifiable is public sector debt. All this is not sustainable.
So now what?
My sense is that we are at a turning point in the Post War era. For about three decades after WW2, the progressive/liberal side was dominant in the United States. Greater centralization, more government involvement in the economy, growing regulation, higher taxation, and greater spending were hallmarks of this era. Even Republican Presidents like Richard Nixon enacted the EPA and OSHA along with wage and price controls during the early 70s. However, the tide began to turn slowly in the 60s, a bit more in the 70s, then a lot more in the 80s.
What was happening was the rise of Modern Conservatism, or more accurately a return to a more limited, traditional model of governance.
Like the wave analogy though, the energy got dissipated during the Bush and Clinton years. Sure, there was some progress but for the most part but spending and government continued to grow throughout the 90s and into both the Bush and Obama Administrations. It seemed like the Reagan years were an abberation and that the progressive order that started with Wilson and FDR was here to stay.
However, as the debts began to climb ever higher and government became more intrusive, more citizens began to realize where this was leading. No matter how one added all the numbers up, the result was staggering…the current path we were on was (and remains) unsustainable. Financial ruin began to stare us in the face, after being ignored for decades. It took an economic collapse and a President with socialist instincts to wake up a critical mass of the electorate.
The elections of 2010 and 2012 could represent a turning point in many ways. Citizens are standing up, getting involved, and supporting candidates that are addressing serious fiscal issues. Governors like Chris Christie (NJ) and Scott Walker (WI) are making difficult decisions that are necessary to get their state’s finances in order. Many of the newly elected Senators and Congressmen from 2010 are taking a hard line on taxing and spending. Economics and fiscal policy will be a recurring theme during the Presidential election too between Governor Romney and President Obama.
The analogy between the Battle of Midway and our current situation involves a struggle against a reality that can’t be ignored. In Japan’s case, they were fighting an economic colossus that would overwhelm them in less than four years. In our country’s case, we are facing fiscal commitments that can’t be met. Soon, the interest on the National Debt will be the largest line item on the budget, even without ObamaCare! As it stands now, the current levels of government spending can’t continue at their current and future levels.
The good news is, America has an option that Japan did not have during the Battle of Midway. If our nation can reduce spending, reduce regulation, reform the tax code, and take other prudent actions, the painful adjustments in the coming years can be managed. It will hurt but won’t be ruinous. The experience will force us to live within our means and return to a more limited, constitutional government like the Founders envisioned. That is the sustainable path that will allow the United States to move forward, albeit painfully.
Or continue on as we have in the past…
How do you think that is going to work out?
Number of comments: 0 Add comment
June 9th, 2012 by exurbandoug