Eating America's Seed Corn
Victor Davis Hanson
As gas prices climb back toward
But since 2009, the U.S. government has declared most federal lands off-limits to new oil and gas exploration -- despite vast recent finds of energy and radically new means to tap it. President Obama also canceled the most vital sections of the Keystone pipeline, a proposed conduit from the Canadian oil fields into the heart of the oil-consuming U.S., while preventing production on existing oil and gas reserves in northern
Apparently, Americans are not willing to produce enough new available oil to meet our always growing gasoline appetites. Yet to keep gas prices manageable in an election year, we will surely tap what our predecessors once banked for us.
The same shortsighted selfishness characterizes debates over entitlements and the deficit. Republicans accuse Obama of transferring more than
Periodic tax hikes to support
Since 2001, federal government has added more than
The generation now in charge of the country can afford such reckless borrowing only because interest rates remain at historic lows. But should inflation mount, the cost to service this enormous borrowing will ensure that generations to come will have to sacrifice to pay back what others long gone spent so recklessly.
Americans have rarely questioned the value of a college education -- until now. Tuition costs are soaring and jobs for those with bachelor's degrees grow scarcer. Yet campuses have added layers of unnecessary administrative bureaucracy and offered student services more akin to spas than institutions of learning.
Teaching loads are generally less than they were 30 years ago, while opportunities for faculty travel and release time are far greater. The result is that collective student indebtedness has reached
Yet few universities seem willing to freeze or reduce tuition costs by slashing unnecessary administrators, having faculty teach more courses, and cutting back on perks like Club Med student unions, superfluous and trendy "studies" classes, or redundant campus "centers." Spiraling costs for the higher-education industry are serviced by ballooning student debt that will take decades to pay down.
There is more talk of our deteriorating roads, bridges and dams than there was during the 1960s, a far poorer era. But again, such erosion is no accident. While our grandparents sacrificed to leave us spectacular freeway interchanges and new airports, we allowed them to decay without worrying about who would restore them after we are gone.
Examine the annual rates of budget increases in
"Eating seed corn" is a metaphor for being forced into the no-win situation of imperiling the future to survive the present. So the allusion does not quite work with contemporary America. Unlike the proverbial farmer who loses his crop to drought or pests, and thereby is forced to live on next year's planting seed, Americans are under no such coercion.
We were not forced into our dilemmas by nature, but simply by choice -- and our own greed and foolishness.
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