The Roman Empire famously destroyed itself from within by cultivating the support of its citizens by showering them with free bread and indulging them with diversionary circuses. Little did the population realize that each time that the Emperor raised his thumb (yes, popular legend has the direction wrong) to signal that a losing barbarian should be killed, that same weak ruler was killing the Empire itself.
For too long, emperors, patricians and consuls of the United States have pursued similar profligacy in order to attract the popular vote. With 41 million Americans now on food stamps, and with a flagrantly wasteful Inaugural spectacle about to swamp the nation’s capital, think Rome at the end of the sixth century A.D. Think Rome during the rule of the Emperor Romulus Augustulus, the last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire ever to wear the imperial purple.
In 2013, the United States government is scheduled to run a deficit in excess of $1 trillion. This does not constitute news because the United States has run deficits similar in magnitude throughout the first term of its own Romulus Augustulus. Indeed the ‘Praetorian Guard’ has confirmed Romulus Augustulus in his position on the basis of the indulgences that he has already extended.
Now, the nascent opposition has an opportunity to strike back. And it surely must do so if the barbarians are to be held outside the gates. Fiscal measures signed into law by the hand of the Emperor are scheduled to take effect at the end of 2012. Crude though they are, they constitute a first offering towards closing the relentless line of huge deficits that track the future of a doomed republic.
The fiscal cliff has been built up by the media as a disaster for the United States. Sadly, it is a parsimonious first offering. If the GOP allows the law to take effect, only $160 billion will be clawed back from that $1 trillion plus annual deficit. On that basis it will take five years just to expunge the 2009 stimulus package. If Romulus Augustulus has his way, the savings will fall perhaps only to $40 billion per annum. In twenty years time, the 2009 stimulus package would barely be retrieved.
Take it as the best that you will obtain, GOP. At least the past beneficiaries of free bread and circuses will bear their own (fair) share of the debt reduction that is achieved.