Fiscal Cliff: Sign of Deeper Troubles?
In less than a month the United States could go over the so-called “fiscal cliff.” How concerned should we be? Is it a sign of something worse?
Come midnight Dec. 31, many tax cuts for American businesses and individuals are due to end. In addition to this, mandatory spending cuts relating to the debt ceiling will take effect. These drastic reductions were designed to motivate both major parties to work hard to come up with more acceptable cuts, but little has been done.
Simply put, both the citizens and the government are going to have less money to work with this coming year. If something doesn’t change, many financial analysts predict a new recession will result.
How did this happen?
How did the United States—the world’s largest economy for many years—get to this point? The short answer is America has been spending more than it has been bringing in.
Last summer, Congress was in a heated debate over the debt ceiling, which is the self-imposed limit the government can borrow. That limit was the unimaginably huge $15.2 trillion. Congress agreed to raise the limit to its present $16.4 trillion, rather than default on its loans.
Of course, the stipulation was that the government had to cut spending in 2013. But will the government really cut spending next year? And if it does, will it send the fragile economy into a tailspin?
And why does the government spend so much anyway?
The United States spends most of its federal budget on entitlement programs. These are programs where public funds are given to people who meet certain requirements. Common entitlement programs include the food stamp program, Medicare and Social Security.
The cost of these entitlement programs is soaring because of the rise in unemployment and the onslaught of the large “baby boom” generation beginning to enter retirement and facing burgeoning health care costs. (Of course, politicians have known for decades that the baby boomers would retire but have continually put off the difficult task of reforming Social Security and Medicare.)
In 1962 only 28 percent of government spending went to entitlement programs. Today, it is 70 percent! In addition, nearly half of all Americans don’t pay any federal income taxes.
Program abuse and dependency
There are some who are quite capable of working yet find ways to abuse the system to receive government assistance.
The apostle Paul wrote about the importance of having a strong work ethic. He said, “Nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. … For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:8, 10).
Paul at another time wrote, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28).
Prior to 1939 there was no food stamp program. Generally communities and families helped each other. But as family and community safety nets have weakened, government entitlement programs have grown—and so have abuses of the system.
Today, some see no reason to work, when they can find ways to abuse the system and receive money from the government—cheating the taxpayers.
America’s leaders won’t acknowledge solution
Besides the people who are “milking” entitlement programs, America’s leaders continue to spend far more than the government takes in. They raid the Social Security fund and put off the hard decisions about massive cuts that must be made. The debt ceiling fights and the fiscal cliff should wake people to the fact that the nation is nearing bankruptcy—but too few grasp the magnitude of America’s problems.
Notice what God says about Ephraim, one of the so-called lost tribes of Israel: “Aliens have devoured his strength, but he does not know it; yes, gray hairs are here and there on him, yet he does not know it” (Hosea 7:9).
God continues to say that instead of looking to Him for help, the modern descendants of Israel try to fix this problem themselves. “The pride of Israel testifies to his face, but they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek Him for all this” (verse 10).
So instead of turning to God, they turn to other countries. America makes costly alliances to try to buy friends around the world and then must go hat in hand to persuade other nations to continue to finance more American debt. God says that when we do this, we are like a “silly dove, without sense” (verse 11).
Will America go over the cliff?
America’s problems are the results of bad decisions “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
So as American leaders seek to find solutions without God, will they succeed?
At the 11th hour, Congress will probably find a temporary fix to at least parts of this fiscal cliff. But the problem will keep coming back until we address the real issue—our rejection of God and His commandments.
One thing is certain. Once we go over that cliff, only God can save us.
Read more about the heritage of Israel’s descendants and their future in the section “Where Is America in Prophecy?”