Right now, just such a piece of paper is circulating in Washington, called the Total Debt Ceiling Bill. This paper is created by thousands of bean-counters who are paid by the same government to work out how much the government owes, and then increase the debt ceiling so that life goes on as normal (and all those bean counters can get paid on time).
This game of pass-the-paper has been going on for a long time now – in fact this is the 75th time that this particular bit of paper has circulated around Capitol Hill – but this time the Tea Party have noticed that Uncle Sam now owes more than the entire nation produces in a whole year – in a word: $16.7 trillion. The government’s banker – the Fed – has been helping the government pay its bills for the past few years by speeding up its Bernanke-driven printing press, a special electronic button that just produces money out of thin air – wonderful!
The Tea Party don’t want to sign this bit of paper this time around. They know in their bones that this is no way to run a proper teashop: everyone building up debts that are paid for with printed paper-money is not the way they were brought up.
They have noticed that the federal government’s spending has risen from 17 per cent of US GDP in 2000 to 23 per cent now. And there is a Democrat president in the White House who doesn’t do maths and economics and can’t add up, but wants every American to have free healthcare, on top of this enormous debt pile. The trouble is that this week, on Thursday to be precise, the US government runs out of money. Even the man in the White House may not get paid on time.
Proper financial discipline is clearly still not yet on the menu: the US and the UK are living on borrowed money and time… and are not in the mood to be weaned off it just yet. So who will blink first?