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Viruses Aren’t The Only New Threat

Let’s pick up where we left off last week.

Whatever the origin of the COVID-19, or Corona Virus Disease 2019, virus, much uncharted territory remains.

And the recent pandemic contains lessons for both the economy and national security of the United States.

Generations ago, those wanting to launch a serious attack likely had to do so on foot or horseback.

However, current threats extend way beyond threats of generations ago.

To pick the example that the world has most recently come to appreciate: Think of what can be done with a virus that couldn’t be done generations ago.

The extent of the recent pandemic may never be fully known. It’s easy to imagine, for example, that some countries have understated the pandemic’s extent within their own borders. Meanwhile, other countries may have overstated this by counting, as COVID-19 deaths, the deaths of those who have died with the virus, even if they likely died of something else.

Whatever the extent of the recent pandemic, a future pandemic could be worse.

Much, much worse.

Regardless of whether it’s intentional yet particularly if it involves a virus well designed to spread and either harm or kill quickly.

A future virus isn’t the only threat. It’s no secret that countries that don’t wish the United States well can launch technology-based attacks of many sorts.

Meanwhile, some threats come from within. One such threat comes from debt.

That sounds mundane, especially compared to a virus or a technology-based attack, yet it’s not.

To address the recent pandemic, the United States government has borrowed trillions of dollars.

Can you name a country that extensively buys American government bonds?

One is the country where the recent pandemic originated.

Regardless of how the virus originated within that country, it’s a country that, shall we say, doesn’t always wish the United States well.

Just what incentives has the United States government created for such a country?

And that’s just part of a much bigger challenge.

Four decades ago, it was big news that America’s national debt had exceeded a trillion dollars.

Can most Americans even guess how big the national debt is now?

Hint: Many trillions.

To paraphrase the late U.S. Sen. Everett Dirksen, a trillion here and a trillion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

Why does the United States government do this? One reason is lack of self-discipline. Another is that spending such money often generates lots of attention and votes, while balancing the government’s checkbook often doesn’t.

Yet how long can the United States government continue borrowing a trillion here and a trillion there without fundamentally damaging the economy?

And just what does the United States plan to do if one day the country where the recent pandemic originated curtails its purchase of, or stops purchasing altogether, American bonds?

Then what?

Are there some things for which the United States government should borrow money? Of course. But not for everyday expenses, and certainly not to the extent that the United States government currently borrows money.

When this columnist was a newspaper reporter, the chief of staff to a member of Congress reflected on the national debt.

Both the member of Congress and the chief of staff – an outstanding pair that New York’s Southern Tier was fortunate to have – came from the private sector.

The chief of staff said that if any private enterprise were hemorrhaging money as the United States government then was, nobody would leave the office until the problem was solved.

Someone would keep ordering sandwiches and coffee until then, the chief of staff said. But in the United States government, nobody cares.

That was trillions and trillions of dollars ago.

Regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats are in control, this problem has continued.

How much can this continue without fundamentally damaging the American economy?

Like most Americans, Randy Elf balances his checkbook.

COPYRIGHT ç 2021 BY RANDY ELF.

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