Yes, the U.S. economy may finally be recovering. American willpower to confront real problems? Not so much.
To his credit, Ben Bernanke isn’t here to make us feel better. The Federal Reserve chief devoted the last third of his prepared testimony before the Senate Budget Committee Friday to a familiar complaint: that Congress isn’t taking seriously the chronic – yet potentially acute – problem of U.S. overspending.
But someone, he emphasizes, has to do something before it’s too late.
This comment comes as Congress, fully earning its near-zero approval ratings, is girding for battle over an utterly laughable “issue,” the debt ceiling. As other commentators have pointed out, “debating” this subject without addressing the real issue, the ongoing federal budget deficit, is absurd.
As he has before, Bernanke called for the powers that be to debate and then adopt a plan for reducing spending over the next five to 10 years. The idea is to keep the foreigners who fund our outsize appetite for stuff on board.
In the absence of a plan limiting the U.S. fiscal appetite, Bernanke said, we will grow so fat that we will inevitably face a debt crisis. He points to a recent Congressional Budget Office study on debt levels:
Even Congress can understand that sort of talk, presumably. We shall see if that understanding translates into action.