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Charles Ballay, M.D., Libertarian, Statement on Fiscal Policy and National Debt

The Need for Restoring Fiscal Sustainability: A Libertarian Perspective on America's Post-WWII Economic Journey


The precarious state of America’s fiscal health, underscored by a national debt exceeding $27 trillion and marked by economic instability, is the cumulative result of decades of policy decisions. This trajectory, shaped by Democratic and Republican administrations since World War II, calls for a comprehensive Libertarian reevaluation to steer toward fiscal sustainability.


Following WWII, the Bretton Woods Agreement of 1944 established the U.S. dollar, then backed by gold, as the global reserve currency. This pivotal moment solidified America's financial dominance and sowed the seeds of future economic challenges. The country’s role as a global economic leader, while empowering, led to policy shifts with long-lasting repercussions.


The 1970s marked a significant change with the Nixon administration's decision to end the dollar's gold convertibility, a move driven by the financial strain of the Vietnam War and a growing U.S. trade deficit. This shift to a fiat currency system removed the dollar's value constraints, setting the stage for an era of deficit spending. For example, by the end of the Vietnam War in 1973, the U.S. had incurred about $111 billion in direct costs, equivalent to over $700 billion today, contributing significantly to the national debt.


Economic policies in the following decades further exacerbated this trend. The Reagan administration in the 1980s, for instance, increased defense spending significantly, with the defense budget in 1987 reaching $282 billion, up from $134 billion in 1980. While aiming to strengthen U.S. military presence, these policies contributed to a growing national debt, which had risen to $2.6 trillion by the end of Reagan’s presidency.


The trend of fiscal expansion continued with the Bush and Obama administrations. The Bush administration’s tax cuts, combined with increased spending for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, added approximately $5 trillion to the national debt over eight years. Following the 2008 financial crisis, the Obama administration's stimulus measures, including the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009, which cost about $831 billion, further increased the debt.


More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic response under the Trump administration, notably the CARES Act, and continuing into the Biden administration, added roughly $2.2 trillion to the national debt in 2020 alone. This pattern of response to crises with large-scale fiscal stimulus has become a characteristic feature of U.S. economic policy.


From a Libertarian perspective, a path to recovery lies in returning to principles of fiscal prudence and economic liberty. This approach would encourage the revitalization of domestic manufacturing through deregulation and tax reforms, countering past trends of outsourcing jobs overseas due to policies like NAFTA and China’s entry into the WTO, contributing to the decline of U.S. manufacturing.


Moreover, a reassessment of the nation's monetary policy is crucial. Exploring options such as reintroducing asset-backed currency standards could impose discipline on currency issuance and debt accumulation. This change would significantly shift from the current fiat currency system, enabling expansive monetary policies without the traditional constraints of gold backing.


Libertarians also advocate for a critical reevaluation of government spending, emphasizing the need for balanced budgets and focusing on the core functions of government. This stance includes reconsidering foreign policy and advocating for a non-interventionist approach that could significantly reduce military expenditures.


In conclusion, the post-WWII economic journey of the United States, marked by bipartisan policy decisions that have led to our current fiscal challenges, necessitates a rethinking of our financial strategy. Embracing Libertarian principles of fiscal responsibility, monetary reform, and a focus on domestic economic strengths offers a pathway to not only address immediate concerns but also ensure long-term stability and prosperity. This path represents more than an economic recalibration; it is about realigning with the foundational principles of financial freedom and responsibility.

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