The ghost of Christmas yet to come


With Christmas 2012 behind us and the “fiscal cliff” of 2013 narrowly avoided, it’s time to pause and consider what lies ahead for our country and our state.
In the famous novel “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, the stodgy accountant Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts. The first spirit to visit the miserly Scrooge is the “Ghost of Christmas Past.” The purpose of the visit from the ghost from the past is to show Scrooge why he needs to change his curmudgeonly attitude toward the people around him, mainly his employee Bob Cratchit.
Next to visit Scrooge is the “Ghost of Christmas Present.” His visit demonstrates to Scrooge what joy and festivities Christmas can bring but also what poverty and need exists.
Lastly, Mr. Scrooge has a visit from the “Ghost of Christmas yet to Come.” This spirit is the most fearsome and appears only in a black hooded robe that never speaks but only gestures with one hand. He presents Scrooge with an ominous picture of the future in order to persuade him to change his ways.
Just as in the story from 170 years ago, the future appears to be very bleak if there is not a dramatic change of course for our country.
In the latest round of negotiations in Washington, D.C., to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” there was an inherent lack of will to reduce federal spending.  Last year’s $1.2 trillion federal deficit has increased our nation’s debt to more than $16 trillion and the only result of last week’s vote was to postpone discussion on meaningful budget reductions for two months. Each day the United States adds another $4.3 billion to the debt. The inability of our leaders in Washington to tackle the thorny issue of reducing federal spending forecasts a very gloomy future.
In “A Christmas Carol,” Ebenezer Scrooge’s former partner, Jacob Marley, who died seven years earlier, appears bound in heavy chains. Every day that Congress fails to enact true spending reform adds another link in a chain of debt for future generations.
Raising taxes on the top 2 percent will do nothing to solve our budget problems if Republicans and Democrats alike aren’t willing to do what is necessary to balance the federal budget.
A similar situation lies ahead for Minnesota as well. Gov. Mark Dayton and the Democratic-controlled legislature have already plotted a course with billions of dollars in new spending. The promises of more spending on K-12 education, transportation, health care and gifts to local governments will require massive tax increases.
Federal tax increases, coupled with state tax increases, will deal a crippling blow to our fragile economy which is already overburdened with massive debt.
As in the picture portrayed by the “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come,” there is a bleak and gloomy future ahead unless our elected officials at every level of government thighten their belts and reduce the level of government spending.

Phil Krinkie is president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota. He previously served 16 years in the Minnesota Legislature and operates The Snelling Co., a Twin Cities heating and air conditioning company.