June 16th, 2010
06:00 PM ET

What would fiscal austerity look like in the U.S.?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It may be a sign of things to come here in the U.S.:

Running out of money and drowning in debt. Governments across Europe are cutting, cutting and then cutting some more... and the pain is palpable.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/06/16/art.pennies.jpg caption=""]
CNNMoney.com reports what fiscal austerity looks like... and countries including Greece, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Portugal, and Ireland are living through it now.

These governments are implementing a wide range of tough measures - and in the process imposing a dramatic change in lifestyle for their residents.

These include - freezing public-sector wages and state spending, cutting jobs, social welfare benefits, and state and local budgets.

Some governments are raising retirement ages and reducing pension payments... others are increasing taxes - from the value-added tax to higher taxes on gasoline and cigarettes... and income and profits taxes.

It gets worse - with the added concern that economic instability will lead to political unrest.

Top European officials are warning that Democracy could "collapse" in Greece, Spain and Portugal unless they take urgent action to fix the debt crises. They worry these countries could fall victim to military coups or popular uprisings.

Meanwhile on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, as America's national debt tops $13 trillion - there's no indication the federal government will stop spending anytime soon.

Just this week, President Obama asked for another $50 billion in emergency aid to state and local governments.... but no word on how to pay for it.

At the same time some state governments, which are actually required to balance their budgets, are threatening to cut services if lawmakers can't agree on spending cuts.

Here’s my question to you: What would fiscal austerity look like in the U.S.?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Gary in Arizona writes:
Water seeks its own level, Jack, and those who have not prepared for the worst will suffer the most. It would come down to a simple matter of survival of the fittest and it would be brutal since the government has made a habit of propping up the poor with programs that would have to be curtailed. America would clearly become a nation of haves and have-nots. And, as a result, there would be chaos and riots unlike anything America's ever seen.

Mark in Houston writes:
What do I think it would look like? Complete chaos. Can you imagine people not having the money to buy all those self- serving electronic gadgets used to fill their days? They would be lost. We would have graveyards filled with ex-Tweeters, texters, bloggers, wi-fiers, etc.

Ron in Sequim, Washington writes:
It looks like simply living within one's means: Make it harder for people to get credit; only purchase what one can afford; no money – no buy. It's not fiscal austerity, it's fiscal responsibility. It's a philosophy that never fails to avoid debt. If we keep on the course we're on freezing public-sector wages, state spending, cutting jobs, social welfare benefits, and state and local budgets just sounds like common sense.

R. writes:
I don't know what it would look like to others, but I already have been living it for quite some time now. Sounds like we're going down the toilet behind all the other countries.

Frank in Colorado Springs writes:
Austerity are us. Here in Colorado Springs, we see the ugly face of austerity. Big time. Street lights turned off, swimming pools closed, senior citizen centers closed, no maintenance at city parks, no water for the park landscape, everything brown and ugly. We have potholes that require visas to travel through. It is bad, my friend.

Roger in Pennsylvania writes:
It's like telling someone who's been blind their whole life what color is like. It's been so long since we've had fiscal discipline here, we can't comprehend the concept.

Filed under: Economy • United States
soundoff (163 Responses)
  1. Ed from Port Aransas, TX

    If austerity comes now, it will make this recession look like the Great Depression. During economic downturns, governments must spend to get the economy going. During economic booms, governments should save tax revenues for the down times. That's economic 101, which President Bush slept through at Yale.

    June 16, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
  2. David , Laguna Niguel CA


    The government would quit being our "parents" and we would have to fend for ourselves just like our forefathers did. They would quit taking our money to use as they want and let us make our own decisions and take the responsibility for those decisions. In other words entitlements would go away.

    June 16, 2010 at 2:45 pm |

    Peace and justice in the place of agressive war against other people. Security is gained by good faith & good works toward other societies' problems, not through exploitation, threats, demands or war. The US is corrupt, too.

    June 16, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
  4. Missy M.

    Zero entitlement programs except for the most needy cases such as the disabled and the elderly. No more lifetime welfare benefits. No more free healthcare for the poor. No more food stamps for the poor. Yes, communities, church groups and other organizations would have to step up to the plate to empower the poor in their communities, but that's the way it should be anyway. For most poor people, being poor is a lifestyle choice.

    June 16, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
  5. Pete from Georgia

    Fiscal austerity would probably be families having TWO cars, cell phones, flat screen TV's, and computers................. instead of three or four each.

    June 16, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
  6. JENNA

    What would fiscal austerity look like in the U.S.?

    Spending cuts and tax hikes, just like here in CA.

    Cut services from the poor and tax the wealthy.

    Roseville CA

    June 16, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
  7. Kenny in the High Desert of California

    We may look like a third world country where the government doesn't feed the economy. Austerity by the government means private enterprise could be put to the test without Washington's funding. That means providing jobs at a livable wage many American's are accustomed to.
    Chances are the economy would never have reached the heights had it not been for the infusion of trillions of big government money distributed into the wallets of America’s consumers by way of jobs. Austerity means free enterprise will have to carry the economic load for three hundred million American's, but how?

    June 16, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
  8. Gerry

    Term limits for politicians, no private congressional retirement plans, no congressional raises that aren't tied to C.P.A., , Congress is required to use the same medical care as the general population with the same options. No new legislation unless they can find the funding through existing available funds. Politicians currently in power that fail to/or failed to support the constitution in the past lose part or all of their pensions. Give away programs to illegal aliens terminated . Health services and meals to children of illegals under the age of 12 excepted. Eliminate the I.R.S. as we know it and the requirement of filing of annual tax returns and go to a national sales tax. This would encourage people to save as you won't pay taxes on their earnings until you spend it and eliminates tax dodgers and collection problems. Eliminate foreign aid to countries that are not our allies. Stop funding the ACLU, this is like funding your own assassin. Eliminate subsidizing the National Endowment of the Arts and like organizations. ACORN was a good example of stupidity in government.

    Ash Fork, Az

    June 16, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
  9. Matt Toohey

    Fiscal austerity for who? Certainly not government since that is not in their vocabulary. Unless all levels of government get their fiscal house in order we will soon be province of China.


    June 16, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
  10. Blanche

    Jack...I just can't wrap my head around it! You are asking this question of 3 generations that has done nothing but feed it's wants more than it's needs. We do not know how to be controlled..."austere" is not even in our vocabulary,

    June 16, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
  11. Dave, Brooklyn, NY

    You don't want to know.

    June 16, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
  12. Tom in Desoto, Tx

    What? No toys, no meaningless expenditures, tighten discretionary spending, pay our bills instead of borrowing all the time, spend money on education, infrastructure, and the over all betterment of the people of country instead of endless backbiting, meaning projects, not being held hostage to lobbyist? Come on Jack, this is America where politicians are answerable to no one. Have you lost your mind?

    June 16, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
  13. Richard Oak Harbor, Wa

    Fiscal austerity would likely mean cutting state budgets causing consequential reduction in state services to the public in exchange for not raising state property and sales taxes. There may be reduced subsidies for some state funded services that would have to be paid by users of those services instead of taxpayers, It's possible school lunch, bus and book fees might be affected. Hospital emergeny room costs might require co-pay deductibles of some kind. Some town, city and state workers might be laid off. Unemployment compensation could be limited to a certain number of weeks without any extensions. Large construction projects and specific road improvement programs might be delayed or prioritized lower. But don't worry, it won'y be permanent.

    June 16, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
  14. Greg, Ontario

    All illegal immigrants are gone and the border is protected. You have no unneeded military bases in other countries and your policy is changed to protect America not protect American buisness assets on foriegn soil. People who retire with millions don't need medicare or any other form of state or federally supplied service.
    Those three adjustment alone should free up enough money to start needed infrastructure projects all over the country and put unemployed people to work and paying taxes and buying goods and services again.
    ok, that's a nice dream but we both know you will wait until you are forced into it before you actually do it Jack and then you will blame whoever is in the White House at the time.

    June 16, 2010 at 3:33 pm |
  15. Conor in Chicago

    It would look like a European country. Our fiscal deficits are related directly to our garrisoning the world colliding against our need to provide for our citizens. The only way to get our financial house in order is to end the empire. Of course we won't do that before being destroyed or going totally bankrupt first as there is too much money to be made. So, this question is moot.

    June 16, 2010 at 3:33 pm |
  16. Elizabeth From Toronto

    Ask an unemployed American that question.

    June 16, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
  17. Tom, Avon, Me, The Heart of Democracy

    The Pentagon would stop buying things that it no longer uses and has no intention of using.

    The Pentagon would not be allowed to spend any more than ten times what an item is worth. If a hammer costs ten dollars at Home depot, the Pentagon would not spend more than a hundred for that hammer.

    June 16, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
  18. Tom, Avon, Me, The Heart of Democracy

    It is not going to do Louisiana any good if tourists pack the hospitals in respiratory distress. That is not the way to help.

    Train the out of work shrimpers as replacements for Bush's coke head Minerals Management Inspectors. They'll make sure corners aren't cut, tests are performed, safety becomes the norm.

    June 16, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
  19. frank

    90% tax rate on all income over $1 million a year, no exceptions. Off shore accounts, or you move the company off shore, CEO and management and board of directors lose their citizenship. And their families. Period.

    June 16, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
  20. Dan G from Ohio

    It would be one where buying stuff just for the sake of stuff would be no more. A very strict economy of only necessities.

    June 16, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
  21. richard a. winkler

    A start would be to bring all the troops home from Iraq and Afgahnistan and save the billions it costs to keep them there.

    June 16, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
  22. tom trapani, quito, ecuador

    Jack, in the unlikely event it actually came to pass, it would resemble a well planed household budget geared to living within ones means ( income). Give politicans penchant for wasting other people's money( i.e. tax payers $$$.)
    It is my opinion such a thing will never come to pass.

    June 16, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
  23. bob z fr ,pa.

    i think before we do that we should get rid of all illegals and there children as anchor babies .

    June 16, 2010 at 3:53 pm |
  24. JOE CE

    Unfortunately, fiscal austerity is deflationary and drives a weak economy further down. The thing lacking in the past was failure, in good times, to establish contingency funds to deal with downturns. We need a voluntary, independently managed fund to retire public debt. Funded by voluntary contributions and applying half the income to debt retirement and half reinvested. In 10 years, such a fund could become significant and in 50 years get control of the debt..

    June 16, 2010 at 3:55 pm |
  25. susan mys

    What would it look like???? Printing presses printing money overtime.

    June 16, 2010 at 3:56 pm |
  26. Sylvia from San Diego

    Fiscal austerity is simply Zero deficits and money in the bank for a "raining day". If states like California can't figure this out, how do we expect the federal government to?

    June 16, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
  27. Jurgen R. Brul

    Hello Jack Cafferty and CNN friends,

    Everyone should pay taxes and
    The federal government must use our taxes wisely!

    Jurgen R. Brul

    June 16, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
  28. Jason, Koloa HI

    To me it might as well look like the invisible man, because I've never seen it in my lifetime.

    June 16, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
  29. Jim, Va

    I honestly don't know but it sure would be upsetting to Speaker Nancy Pelosi !!!

    June 16, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
  30. Ed

    Have you looked a California? Jack it's already here.

    June 16, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
  31. Stephen Sumner


    I have a suggestion to deal with fiscal austerity. Do away with billions in campaign and election costs. Go back to the only true democratic form and elect average citizens to serve in the House for 4 years with 1/4 being picked at random every year. Senators can serve for 8 and should also be picked at random.

    Lotteries for Congress would take us back to the days when Congress wasn't a career - Too many lawyers and the cost of campaigning are the root cause of the grandstanding and group think that has diminished the respect of the American people for their government. That crisis is the one that most needs to be resolved now. All the other problems flow from the lack of respect, we the people feel for THEY the government.

    June 16, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
  32. chris

    if we the american people had the say it would work cut salaries and enourmous benefits they get in all levels of our govt waste not to mention the pork in bills and all the govt waste out there and that is a start but if they try it it will be a disaster cause theya re making it worse even with the help of their lobbyiestwho they bow down toa nd kiss their shoes while throwing sand a t us thre average taxpayer and without going or getting untrusive and more intrusive in our lives it will only work if we can do somethign aboutt eh govt waste, porka nd enourmous spending and the deep wells of salaries and benfits we only dream of

    June 16, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
  33. Bizz Quarryville, Pennsylvania

    I think it would look like a two class nation with no middle class. the austerity look for us would be more people living in the streets without any help. The middle class, or what is left of it, will be taxed and lose their Health Care pension funds and forced to work longer. The rich will survive and prosper with tax cuts so they can trickle down their money. Congress will continue to spend money on pork so they can get reelected and keep their job.

    June 16, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
  34. Ronald Holst

    Jack No different than any other county that you have mentioned
    San Antonio,TX .

    June 16, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
  35. frankie

    I am old-school. I can envision an America in which the country's wealth is measured by the financial security of regular people and regular families. "A chicken in every pot, a car in every garage....." Government programs certainly could be tightened up, the savings could be astronomical and the programs could work better than ever, if America has vision to do so. We are fortunate enough to have a President right now who has this kind of vision, rather just waiting for the wealthy trickle down anything good on the rest of us. Did BP voluntarily spend the money to make it's deep offshore wells safe?

    June 16, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
  36. Bert Oak View, CA

    Fiscal austerity, hum, well lets start with eliminating all foreign aid, then lets stop funding the drug war, then we could quit paying any benefits to any non-citizens and eliminate Anchor babies and perhaps seize bank accounts of anyone hiring illegal aliens and we could defund the United Nations. Oh, I almost forgot the most important part; we could eliminate health care and pensions for US and state legislators.

    I'm sure there is more, but I think this would be a good start.

    June 16, 2010 at 4:10 pm |
  37. Ronald Holst

    instead of asking Questions like would you vote for Obama in 2012 or do you think the President should get reelected . Why Not Ask Who do you think would Do a better Job than Obama . I would Love To see the names any one would come up with . aw like John Boehner. Or Sara Palin ! give me a break !

    June 16, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
  38. Remo, from beautiful downtown Pflugerville Texas

    Jack, it would look like my checking account. If the money isn't there, don't buy it. It's that simple. Good old Economics 101, to purchase goods and services, you must have the funds. Oh but his is the GOVERNMENT where theie Economics 101 says, if the money isn't there print more..................

    June 16, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
  39. James Atlanta

    It would look rosy if we did a couple of things. First get the 1/5th of us out of poverty and jail by bringing back manufacturing jobs. 2nd of all, make healthcare affordable. My mom had spine surgery last year and the bill is approaching 1.7 million dollars, luckily she was an assistant school principal and has good insurance. But the copays are from Mars. 3rd, quit making everything we do illegal or forcing people to do what they don't want to do, taxes on small businees, marijuana laws which have about 1/6th of our population who can't get work or who are involved with the legal system because of minor infractions. Get the illegals out or get them on board. Stop letting big companies dictate everyything, small businesses, can't compete, and now walmart is going to use robots in all there warehouses. Those are people that are going to wind up in jail or welfare. Get some honest folks in Government.

    June 16, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
  40. Michael Roepke - Dallas

    We have recently seen outrage over executive compensation. If we started to experience fiscal austerity, if the average person was having trouble feeding their family, imagine the fury over multi-million dollar payouts to executives, sports figures and others as well as unheard of profits of corporations like drugs and energy that present themselves as serving the country.

    June 16, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
  41. Gregory Tripp, Mechanicsburg, PA

    What a bunch of crybabies. So the federal government must cut back on spending and increase taxes. Big deal. Let's cut the defense budget in half, end those two wars in the middle east and bring our boys and girls home where they belong, closing bases across Europe and the rest of the world as we do. Cut out no-bid contracts. Hold contractors like Halliburton accountable for cost overruns and broken contracts. Cut wages for everyone in D.C., including the Pentagon, by 10%. Make Wall Street pay extra windfall profits tax on outrageous bonuses. Tax the richest 5% of Americans with luxury taxes out the bum. Raise the age for social security to 70. Freeze prices and wages like Richard Nixon did. Insure that moneys earmarked for construction and improvements on infrastructure are being spent wisely, but are being spent. Consolidate federal bureaucracies and eliminate redundancy in government regulations and agencies. Increase fines and prison terms for white collar crime and criminalize a lot of unethical practices in D.C. and Wall Street. Cut foreign aid, period. Invest in low interest/interest free loans for small businesses and make them exempt from providing employee health care coverage. Invest in education and get rid of no-child-left-behind. Legalize, regulate, and tax the hell out of marijuana. You do all these things and we'll be sailing in black ink in no time. I guarantee it.

    June 16, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
  42. Alex in Gig Harbor, WA

    Medicare/Medicaid are the fastest growing parts of the budget. When those programs are cut the old and infirm will simply die when their care is ended. It won't be death panels but the accountants who will actually pull the plug the plug on grandma. Even the tea party people scream about not cutting medicare and social security as they call for smaller government.

    June 16, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
  43. Lance, Ridgecrest, Ca

    Jack, real austerity would have many faces, and here are a few.
    1) Work for welfare
    2) No pork on any congressional bills
    3) No support of any type for illegal aliens, no medical, no welfare, nothing
    4) Larger classes, fewer teachers, more expensive colleges
    5) No government grants unless there is a return on the investment
    6) Higher taxes, (you can bet on this)
    7) Pay as you go congressional funding, no pay, no bill, force Congress and the President to make the hard decisions, that's why they were elected

    June 16, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
  44. Keith - Twinsburg, Ohio

    Jack, it would make the "Great Depression" look like a pimple on the horizon. This country would have to go back to hard work, fending for yourself, and not wasting a thing, and not looking for handouts... In this era, the only citizens that fit that description are now in their 80s & 90s...

    Our landfills could be given to some third world countries and they would feel as though they hit the lottery...

    I wouldn't be a pretty picture, Jack.

    June 16, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
  45. Dennis north Carolina

    slim and trim

    June 16, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
  46. Randy

    I don't know, "Mad Max" maybe? How about "The Road." Whatever is coming will be a nightmare for all but the rich.

    June 16, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
  47. Chris - Denver

    I don't know what it would look like, but do we need it? Yes but not yet. Austerity would be self-defeating at this point as increased pressure on employment would actually drive revenues down and worsen the deficit. We need to wait until the job market heats up, and then pull the fiscal stimulus, creating a balanced budget and debt reduction. Don't repeat the mistakes of 1937.

    June 16, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  48. Ken in New Baltimore

    Getting rid of a Spend and Tax Democratic led Congress, as well as a Prez and VP who keep pushing their cronies to dip into our grandkids pockets.

    June 16, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
  49. Rod / Chicago

    Who are America's fastest-growing class of millionaires? They are police officers, firefighters, teachers and federal bureaucrats who, unless things change drastically, will be paid something near their full salaries every year–until death–after retiring in their mid-50s. That is equivalent to a retirement sum worth millions of dollars.

    Carlsbad, CA offers its police and firefighters a "3-percent-at-50" retirement plan, meaning that emergency services workers who retire at age 50 can get 3 percent of their highest salary times the number of years they have worked for the city.

    City officials have said that in Carlsbad, the average firefighter or police officer typically retires at age 55 and has 28 years of service. Using the 3 percent salary calculation, that person would receive an annual city pension of $76,440.

    That does not include health benefits, which might push real retirement compensation close to $100,000 a year

    Obviously, whats happening in Europe will happen here. Its just a matter of time

    June 16, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
  50. Bob in Kansas City

    It won't be pretty, this morning I read where Nancy Pelosi moved into a new office in San Francisco with an over $18,000 per month rent.....You want austerity, start with all 535 of those jerks in DC, $18K for rent?, give me a break!.

    June 16, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
  51. Ed from California

    Just like it looks right now. The Europeans benefits, wages and conditions are much better than ours in the first place. We are third world compared to Europe. Jack, we import more than we export. That's not good. Our jobs are in Mexico, India and China. How in the world can our government think about solvency when it's sole financial source of income is unemployed. And the unemployed Americans source's of work is in another country. So how can anyone think it's going to get better. Think before you vote!

    June 16, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
  52. Cameron SF, CA

    I see that we have to cut in many areas:
    Unemployment Benefits with a strict 12 week cut off – no extensions
    Benefits for State and Federal workers reduced in half with employee contribution amounts (just like my company and I manage w/ 3 kids)
    Limited government because they can't afford to pay for big govt
    Outlaw unions in order to fairly hire and fire as necessary and btw we don't need these anymore – it's not exactly 1880 with sweat shops.
    Focus on core needs: education, public safety and infrastructure (roads, transportation, etc...) Forget grants to help salmon spawn up river (let non-profits raise money from private individuals to pay for these things)
    Reduce welfare benefits to 5 years or less.

    The flip side is that once people realize they have limited safety net, they will save more and work hard for what they want. Right now they're going 500 mph and driving recklessly and not worrying about what tomorrow brings. It's like an irresponsible spoiled rich child who think their parents will bail them out of any and all trouble they encounter. We need to let people fall on their face and allow them to pick themselves up, dust off and move forward again. With all these benefits, very few have really had to struggle. And did they learn their lesson 10, 20 years down the road when the next recession hits??

    Perhaps not if we keep "saving" them from reality.

    June 16, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
  53. David from Herndon, VA

    Say goodbye to mortgage interest deductions, say goodbye to caps on social security taxes. Say hello to a VAT, probably in addition to income taxes. Say hello to increased state and local taxes - car tax, property tax, utility taxes. Get ready for prolonged high unemployment rates, absurd student-teacher ratios in schools. Get ready for increased income tax rates in addition to painful cuts in social security and medicare benefits.

    And in a worst case situation, get ready for high inflation, which will be the end of the middle class once and for all.

    June 16, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  54. Curtis in Philadelphia

    Jack, who cares? Seemingly, as long as the top 2% have everything their little hearts desire, what dos it matter what happens to the bottom feeding 98%? Seriously, who cares? Elected officials? All they care about is getting re-elected. The financial elites only care that the soup they order is hot, their lawns cut and that we not remind them how life really is. Who cares? Obviously no one in power.

    June 16, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  55. Don

    Austerity? So, Jack: all those options and all those countries cutting the social services and safety nets leave out the elephant in the center of the room when looking at the US – our tremendously bloated military budget. We have a new fighter airplane program (the F-35) designed to do nothing but provide corporate welfare to the white, suburban middle class across dozens of states (the Pentagon doesn't even want it!!) that if was canceled tomorrow would by itself would prevent the need to change social security. And if we want do want to "save" social security, lift the cap on payroll taxes that the rich pay (along with the liability cap on all corporate activity) and – puff – social security is no longer "going broke". This whole debate is being managed to serve the interests of the well heeled elites in protecting their profit margins while the rest of us pay for it. Unbelievable!

    June 16, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  56. Conor in Chicago

    It would look like a Neo-Conservative paradise. At long last the government will be completely bankrupt, the Constitution can be torn in half, and corporations would wield open and uncontestable power since they will have all of the wealth, control the money flow, and the remnants of government who will have a vested interested in seeing this transition through will help provide cover for this transition. You don't need to be a conspiracy theorist to believe any of this is possible. Hell, you just need to consider what folks like Rand Paul are talking about.

    June 16, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
  57. Viv from NY

    Jack there is a simple way -Called taxes – gets rid of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. You know the ones we cannot afford. We need jobs and the only way to create them is to spend – so its up to the government to put money into building roads, fixing up bridges and parks etc. Oh yeah that’s what the stimulus bill was for, the one everyone complained about. The US fiscal austerity would mean you only own 1 yacht not 3 -

    June 16, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
  58. Lyn

    Who knows. We will have to worry about that if it should happen.
    Again, I ask you to stop being a pessimest and become an opptimist, it wil make you less grouchy.
    Do you believe the glass is half empty or half full. Have you noticed how much you have changed in the last year?
    Shape up and quit worrying you can't change things, you only make others scared.

    June 16, 2010 at 4:54 pm |
  59. Michael H. in Albuquerque, NM

    Fiscal austerity would involve making banks loan money to small businesses instead of gambling our money on useless derivitives. As for me, I have always shopped at Goodwill, bought economical used cars, paid cash, and balanced my check book. Some would call my lifestyle a new paradigm of austerity. I call it poverty.

    June 16, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
  60. Gigi Oregon

    It's not the government run spending that is killing America. As the nation grows so grows the budget. Its the excess spending going to wars to get even, excessive wages, benefits, bonuses. and life time wages for our representatives. Government is just one of the problems. Lobbyist are what's hurting the middle and lower class. They grease the palms of Washington and cause the excess price we have to pay for insurance,gas, and etc,,etc.,etc. And government votes tax cuts for the wealthy which in the long run is handed back to the lower class to pick up. American companies go overseas with American jobs. So the rich can make higher profits. Then they say thank you to foreign countries by giving back to them with equipment for better education and their graduates get the great jobs in America because of the neglect of our own children's American Education.
    You can't run a government on a 1980's budget when our countries population is growing by the minute.. Our Representatives could stop Lobbying, they could stop paying life time wages to themselves, they could change to a flat and fair tax, they could stop corruption in corporate America and set a better moral example for our country If...they wanted too. When our Representatives don't vote for us. They are voting for themselves and this is running ramped in our government. The rich getting richer the poor poorer. America like any other country what they sow they shall reap.

    June 16, 2010 at 5:04 pm |
  61. Rob

    Jack, call me cynical but I have seen nothing from our elected officials that suggests austerity is on their minds. Our elected federal officials represent a monetary oil spill – pardon the metaphor – that has been spewing dollars for years. Billions have been poured into pork projects that benefit few. Austerity? Try this. Reduce the amount of time our elected officials can keep theirs hands in the national coffer by limiting their terms in congress. This will surely bring about a federal budget surplus!

    June 16, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
  62. ed

    you remember jack what it was like in the 50s – not nice but we
    made it – drag out the old bicycle or do more walking – take the "el"
    car pool – work close to home – watch less tv – cook when its hot..
    etc etc....

    June 16, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
  63. Ralph Spyer

    We have it now 10% of the country is out of work and living on unemployment checks. Name me just one state that is not in debt . This country has not seen austerity since the 1930. our poor look like stuff pigs

    June 16, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
  64. IKHAN san jose ca

    Hi Jack,
    if we end the two on going wars, do not commit the folly of going into a third & this nation learns to kick the habit of guzzling oil, no problem.
    We wouldn't even need to adopt fiscal austerity.

    June 16, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
  65. Don D (Belleville, Canada)

    Jack. To partly understand what it would look like to be living in fiscal austerity in America, you would have to get out of the studio and live for a few weeks in North Las Vegas, or inner city Detroit or Cleveland.
    If you wanted even a bit more insight, try living in the African nation of Burkina Faso to understand what life is going be like in the USA after a few more years of gross American overspending.

    June 16, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  66. Bruce

    It would be seen as putting the dollar on a gold standard, repealing the Federal Reserve Act and eliminating central banking, not lying about the inflation rate, and never allowing the federal government to spend more than it takes in, as states are bound by. Also recognition that the federal Income tax is totally unconstitutional and therefore illegal.

    June 16, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
  67. Linda in Arizona

    I have no idea, but it wouldn't be pretty. With as many nuts as we have in this country, I think there would be blood in the streets.

    June 16, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
  68. Delia, Katy, TX

    I hate the thought of raising retirement ages. If you can't get a job in your late 40's or 50's now, how do you get one when you're 70?

    Class sizes are increasing so they can decrease the number of teachers required, which means we're not improving education. Schools are also continuing to take out "unnecessary" classes like language courses.

    More police on the streets looking for ways to hand out tickets to increase revenue, instead of stopping real crimes (murder, theft, drugs, etc.).

    Glub, glub, glub, we're drowing in debt, but where do we cut and not adversely affect the future?

    June 16, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
  69. Annie, Atlanta

    Considering this “recovery” is in its infancy, it could look like Japan’s lost decade. Interesting how everyone on the right is now fiscally conscious only after the Dems took over. How convenient. 8 years of out of control spending, good – go shopping. Spending to keep us out of a depression, bad for you, your kids, and your grandkids. Hmmm!

    June 16, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
  70. honest john in vermont

    We have been spending money like a drunken sailor for the past decade and now we're over $13 Trillion in the hole. To get out of this hole the answer is not to cut back on jobs and benefits; which will only exacerbate the problem. We are wasting too much money around the world playing at limited wars which has been draining us. It is time to retrain workers and start spending money and producing goods and services. There is no reason for America to have over 25 Million unemployed and underemployed and if we cut back on jobs–it only gets worse.

    June 16, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
  71. Karen, Lafayette, Louisiana

    Bleak, a lack of a feeling any comfort or warmth, simple, a stripped-down lifesyle, a sense of felling grimness and desolation.

    Oh! Never mind-THAT IS HOW I FEEL NOW! I guess I do not know how to answer this one!

    June 16, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
  72. Ray E. (Georgia)

    Aw Yes,
    I, (we) have always been Fiscal Conservatives so our bottom line is in pretty good shape. However because of the Liberal Policies of the country over the last 50/100 years there is a 13 trillion dollar debt. And it has been a subject of debate for many years but it's like the old Aesop Fable of putting the Bell on the Cat. Everybody, well at least most of us, know we need to slow down and let things catch up but some scream we can't cut that program ! It's needed. Will it look like the 30's again? I have seen a depression coming for some time so I have always prepared for it in advance but those that haven't are already feeling the results.

    I suspect people will have to take jobs that they didn't dream about a few years ago. People that were 6 figure earners now serving hamburgers perhaps. That's what it may look like.

    June 16, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
  73. Greg H - Minneapolis

    Jack, fiscal austerity for the government is an oxymoron. If the government operated like most people, there would be no deficit and the debt would be short-term at best. But so long as politicians put themselves and their desire for reelection ahead of doing what is right for the country and the people, nothing will ever get done to solve the spending problem. People who spend like the government end up broke or in jail. Perhaps if we get more government officials in jail or at least out of office permanently, we can avoid becoming broke!

    June 16, 2010 at 5:24 pm |

    Jack:: Something has got to happen and soon. Our politicians don't care what happens to us. They are saving money in the SWISS bank.Big companys and ceo's are also staching money . The hell with the little people, Maybe some day a little man will rise and we will follow him. We need a good strong leader. LIKE IN THE MOVIES!!????

    June 16, 2010 at 5:27 pm |
  75. Cliff Glass - Rego Park, New York


    Your question implies that fiscal austerity is not already here. The middle class has been progressively eviscarated since the trickle down voodoo economic days of President Reagan.
    You obviously compose your questions from the soft cocoon of a tax cut beneficiary.

    June 16, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  76. steffan in Wellington New Zealand

    Americans would cut aid to the poor, weaken environmental protections, cut education, and then cut taxes on the rich and those that export jobs to China of course. That is the American way. Instead,. America should cease expensive trillion dollar wars, protect the export of jobs and tax revenue, and ask the rich to show solidarity with those Americans who have sacrificed for years on low wages with poor access to education and healthcare. Which would you chose?

    June 16, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  77. Scott Stodden

    Its going to look ugly Jack unless we stop the spending and get control and try to balance our deficit and get things under control but the only way in my opinion to do this would be to raise taxes and cut spending!

    Scott Stodden (Freeport,Illinois)

    June 16, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
  78. Kirk Neuman (Apple Valley, MN)

    The ME generation is going to have conniption fits! They have never worried about saving money or spending beyond their means and when they don't get what they want NOW, they're going to scream and holler. Unfortunately, they idiots in congress have dealt with Billions of dollars for so long, they don't have a clue what an actual DOLLAR is.

    June 16, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
  79. Bill - Atlanta

    You mean greater austerity? Everyone knows the government is too big, too inefficient and too corrupt. At the same time no one wants their piece of the pie cut. We're beyond broke and cuts to social security, welfare and other "social" services are going to cause an uproar among the less affluent. We have become a nation of uneducated whimps who want to blame everyone else for their own problems. Why should my hard-earned money go to pay for someone who is milking the system? The cuts need to come at the expense of those who are not contributing to the system. If you don't like that get an education, get a job and earn your keep! So, in sum, stop the freeloading!

    June 16, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
  80. Solitude

    "It will most likely be what South Africa was like at the turn of the last century."

    June 16, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
  81. mark in Houston

    What do I think it would look like? Complete Chaos.
    Can you imagine people not having the money to buy all those self serving electronic gadgets used to fill their day. They would be lost. We would have graveyards filled with ex tweeters, texters, bloggers, wifiers etc.

    June 16, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
  82. Conor in Chicago

    It would look like America....but actually paying taxes for what it wants.

    June 16, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
  83. John Chotras

    Fiscal austerity would have to change how government pensions (City, state, municipal and federal) are funded. If most of us in the private sector have to fund our own pensions with or without matching funds from an employer, then so should government workers. I say no more open ended retirements with health care included at taxpayer expense. When our IRAs and 401Ks run out of money, we have to go to plan B which may include going back to work......so should all government workers.....otherwise if government jobs are the only way to get a guaranteed open ended retirement with health care, there aren't enough government jobs to go around. Why risk any other option and ending up with nothing.

    June 16, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
  84. R

    I don't know what it would look like to others but I already have been living it for quite some time now. Sounds like we're going down the toilet behind all the other countries.

    June 16, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
  85. Lori - PA


    I believe this situation began when companies starting shipping jobs overseas. Didn't any of the government officals realize the devistatting effect this would have on tax revenue? Now look where we are. I know states are trying to keep a balanced budget, but, as we all know, the federal government is spending with reckless abandon. If our elected officals continue to ignore the impact of a growing deficit, we are going to end up being a country in chaos. What happened in Greece should have been a wakeup call, yet our elected officals are still asleep at the wheel.

    June 16, 2010 at 5:46 pm |
  86. Jerry Jacksonville, Fl.

    Hell Jack no one know, we've never had it.

    June 16, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
  87. Ken in NC

    It would be ugly Jack. Ugly.

    June 16, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
  88. Mike

    A Republican President and Congress.

    June 16, 2010 at 5:49 pm |
  89. Gary H. Boyd

    Water seeks it's own level Jack and those that have not prepared for the worst will suffer the most. It would come down to a simple matter of survival of the fittest and it would be brutal since the government has made a habit of propping up the poor with programs that would have to be curtailed. America would clearly become a nation of haves and have nots. And, as a result, there would be chaos and riots unlike anything America's ever seen. Sad, but true.

    Gary in Scottsdale, Arizona

    June 16, 2010 at 5:53 pm |
  90. Ben

    What does austerity mean, Jack?

    June 16, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
  91. Smith in Oregon

    It would look like Bush-Cheney never were President and Vice President of the United States, Jack.

    Fiscal austerity would never exist with Republican lawmakers giving BILLIONS of American taxpayer dollars to the Pakistani ISI who in turn gives that to the Taliban fighters who are killing American and NATO troops in Afghanistan. Yes, American taxpayer dollars are being used to fund BOTH sides of the Wars with the American taxpayer's caught in the middle thanks entirely to Bush-Cheney.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
  92. Jesse Vancouver Canada

    Hi Jack,

    Fiscal austerity in the US should look something like the following...

    Every child should learn about money, banking and how to balance a budget. This education should last from the 5th grade and progressively get more in depth until the 12th grade.

    Every government agency or publicly funded agency should have to balance their budgets

    Every government agency or publicly funded agency should have their fiscal books available for review online by anyone

    Every Politician at every level of government should have to make their public expense accounts available online to everyone

    Bottom line is that all spending should be transparent and visible to all the public to see where their money is going.

    Oh, and one last thing the banks and stock exchange should be heavily regulated... no more wild west with the world economies.

    Vancouver Canada

    June 16, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
  93. in Woodstock GA

    I am living fiscal austerity right now and know perfectly well what it looks like.

    I think if you ask any of the MILLIONS of Americans who have been out of work for a really long time they can tell you what fiscal austerity looks like.

    It is moving in with family members. It is selling off all your goods, things you worked hard to attain, a little at a time. It is spending your entire retirement fund to maintain a good credit score just in the off chance that you get a job again and can once again to buy a home.

    It is not having the money to see a doctor. It is perhaps having to borrow money from your aging parents to keep your vehicle, because if a job comes along you need to be able to get to it!

    My husban has not worked in nearly two years, and I guess he is one of the "99 week" folks that might just be turned out in the cold and not get any more unemployment benefit, which is what we are living on.

    Jack, I have done a little free-lance writing for a newspaper, any jobs where you are for an old retired lady who might be able to write some human interest stories? I have excellent grammar, Englisth, and will meet deadlines. And, I work cheap!

    June 16, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
  94. Thinkforyourself, OK

    Well, we will probably be forced by Obama and his Progressive/Socialists to find out.

    Let's see, our thermostats will be regulated by the Central Government, just like Stalinist Russia.
    Food lines will be everywhere, just like Stalinist Russia.
    Shoe, and other goods lines will be everywhere, just like Stalinist Russia.
    Water rationing, fuel rationing, power blackouts, starvation, anarchy, murder, chaos, riots, street gangs, union strikes, and the list goes on and on.
    Oh, it'll be such a "fun" time. Can't wait.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
  95. Tara Texas

    Jack your living in a fantasy world if you think American politicians will ever be fiscally responsible. They will raise taxes, add value taxes on commodities and choke every nickel they can from tax payers but they will never, never manage a budget and be fiscally responsible. They simply do not know how to do so. They are politicians not economists and simply missed that gene in the chromosome pool.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
  96. Ann from Charleston SC

    The scenario you describe would not be pretty, but maybe it would get us over our finger pointing, our arrogance in thinking that "my way is the only way", our concern over our rights as opposed to doing the right thing and get us to finally pull together for the common good.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:09 pm |
  97. Mike

    Live and vacation here too. Oil is 240 distant miles from St Peterburg's beaches. Florida's highest attended DALI MUSEUM and two #1 rated beaches are in Pinellas county.( Caladesi Island & Ft Desoto) Historic Don Ce Sar gulfront hotel has hosted presidents and celebrities alike.
    Tampa Bay Devil Rays baseball is downtown too.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:14 pm |
  98. Michael from Keller, Texas

    I believe we are witnessing the FALL AND DESTRUCTION OF ROME in part to corrupt politicians who have put themselves above the citizens of their countries. The world is heading for a major collapse not seen since the beginning of man's creation upon the earth!! We are in a death spiral that we will never recover from. The USA is history....as what we once knew it to be.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:14 pm |
  99. Ron in Sequim, WA

    It looks like simply living within one’s means. Make it harder for people to get credit; only purchase what one can afford. No money – no buy. It’s not fiscal austerity; it’s fiscal responsibility. It’s a philosophy that never fails to avoid debt.

    If we keep on the course we’re on freezing public-sector wages, state spending, cutting jobs, social welfare benefits, and state and local budgets just sounds like common sense.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
  100. Andrew S

    A mess.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
  101. Gregory Tripp, Mechanicsburg, PA

    No one wants to do the right things because they are nor popular. At least that's their thought on it. What a bunch of crybabies. So the federal government must cut back on spending and increase taxes. Big deal. Let's cut the defense budget in half, end those two wars in the middle east and bring our boys and girls home where they belong, closing bases across Europe and the rest of the world as we do. Cut out no-bid contracts. Hold contractors like Halliburton accountable for cost overruns and broken contracts. Cut wages for everyone in D.C., including the Pentagon, by 10%. Make Wall Street pay extra windfall profits tax on outrageous bonuses. Tax the richest 5% of Americans with luxury taxes out the bum. Raise the age for social security to 70. Freeze prices and wages like Richard Nixon did. Insure that moneys earmarked for construction and improvements on infrastructure are being spent wisely, but are being spent. Consolidate federal bureaucracies and eliminate redundancy in government regulations and agencies. Increase fines and prison terms for white collar crime and criminalize a lot of unethical practices in D.C. and Wall Street. Cut foreign aid, period. Invest in low interest/interest free loans for small businesses and make them exempt from providing employee health care coverage. Invest in education and get rid of no-child-left-behind. Legalize, regulate, and tax the hell out of marijuana. You do all these things and we'll be sailing in black ink in no time. I guarantee it.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
  102. Jim

    Santa Claus, the easter bunny, Harvey...........the square root of negative 1
    or any other immaginary concept

    June 16, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
  103. RickFromDetroit

    It would be a country without millionaires or poverty.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
  104. Roger Sargent

    It's like telling someone who's been blind their whole life what color's like. It's been so long since we've had fiscal discipline here, we can't comprehend the concept.
    Roger from Pennsylvania

    June 16, 2010 at 6:18 pm |
  105. Lee Adler

    from West Palm Beach, FL

    Burning pits of diesel when hell freezes over.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:18 pm |
  106. Tom McCann

    No more wars. No more spending trillions on the military to keep gas prices artificially low.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:18 pm |
  107. Francine - Illinois

    Fiscal austerity would look like Madam Pelosi giving up her $19,000 a month office. Think that might be a good start and a good example.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:18 pm |
  108. Don D (Belleville, Canada)

    To get a taste of what fiscal austerity in the USA will look like in five years, go to North Las Vegas or inner city Detroit.
    To get a shocking idea of what America will look like in fifteen years (assuming continued political gridlock) go to Burkina Faso in Africa.
    Watch Michael Moore's old movie Roger and Me. That also gives an accurate idea of what fiscal austerity looked like in Michigan 27 years ago.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:19 pm |
  109. Allen in Hartwell GA

    Jack, I would hope it would look a little like this:
    A 3 – 10% cut in government wages
    A 5% cut in defense spending
    A 50% cut in foreign aid
    A 100% cut in any spending in Iraq and Afghanistan that does not get our people home.
    A total ban on grants for studies we don't need.
    A total ban on grants to corporations
    A total ban on farm-aid to mega agri-businesses

    June 16, 2010 at 6:19 pm |
  110. Janice

    Hey! what you wrote is exactly what our Governor of California is proposing, and he's not a democrat, but a republican. Not that it matters. California could look just like the European Countries. And I mean, in just a few months before the election of a new governor.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:19 pm |
  111. Gregory Sonoma

    Fiscal Austerity will be tough and require a good deal of political courage, something that will only come when the population is more tolerant of a reduction in services. 13 Trillion is a very large number and simply increasing the retirement age and raising taxes wont do it. Waste needs to be cut and productivity and innovation need to be encouraged. If anyone can do it, America can but much must change to avoid a fate shared with the Greeks.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
  112. Jim H

    Jack- want a lost decade like Japan had in the 1990's? Then put us on austerity- that is the only outcome we can hope for if that happens. The government needs to spend...and spend big...on spurring economic development and innovation.
    Jack H.
    Atlanta, GA

    June 16, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
  113. Rodney

    Fiscal Austerity is here in North America. We are just blind to it. No one wants to believe it!

    June 16, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
  114. Warren in Kentucky

    Fiscal austerity in the U.S. will look a lot more like income redistribution than a lot of people would like. Perhaps that's why it won't happen until it all comes down around our ears.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
  115. Sly, Michigan

    Jack, I don't know and don't care. Just keep my Pension & Social Security coming while i'll be living (for good) Overseas next month.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
  116. Karl from SF, CA

    The US will look like California does now when austerity hits. We are about a buck 75 from issuing vouchers to pay our bills,per last nights news.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
  117. William

    This administration obviously has no limit on spending. Until we fix the political spenders in Washington, it's "anti up" and keep paying your taxes, which will eventually lead to expulsion of these cockroaches somewhere down the line, beginning November 2nd.

    Vero, Florida

    June 16, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
  118. Deborah, Lexington, KY

    No more wars we cannot afford!!!

    June 16, 2010 at 6:21 pm |
  119. jim

    John Edwards warned of two Americas and people laughed and mocked him. Bet no one is going to admit he was right 5 years from still claiming those in need are just lazy bums..

    June 16, 2010 at 6:21 pm |
  120. Claire Walker

    Fiscal austerity would include taking away tax breaks for the wealthy, adding a national sales tax to tax the underground, using the latest find in Afghanistan to repay our war debt and reduce our deficit and importing compact diesel operated cars,getting over 50 miles to the gallon, like used in Europe.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:21 pm |
  121. Justin

    I am sure we will reach a point where the government goes broke. The problem lies in the many people who think the Government is there to take care of them. I don't like the actions our Government has taken to "fix" the problem but it's too late now. What really worries me is if the government tries to maintain obsolete laws that make using gold and silver as a source of currency. America will go on, with or without a Government that's "open for business".

    June 16, 2010 at 6:21 pm |
  122. Alan Stuart

    Austerity measures have to be made in the US. Our debt will cripple the country. Bold measures will include having to cut the vast military budget. Taxes will have to rise. A VAT tax will capture needed revenues. Taxes will have to increase on gasoline. The pain will be felt by everyone but it has to be done. If we don't take serious measures now, the US will no longer be the leading world economy and world power.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:22 pm |
  123. Jane

    Do you include Tax Expenditures in your austerity question? How about doing away with the $35billion of tax relief given to the oil and gas industry?
    According to Senator Sanders, “It is beyond comprehension that, according to reports, Exxon Mobil, the most profitable corporation in the world, not only paid no U.S. taxes last year, but also received a $156 million tax refund."

    June 16, 2010 at 6:22 pm |
  124. Frank

    Austerity are us...here in colorado springs we see the ugly face of austerity ...big time....street lights turned off...swimming pools closed..senior citizen centers closed....no maintenance at city parks...no water for the park landscape.....everything brown and ugly.....we have pot holes that require visas to travel through...it is bad my friend.

    colorado springs

    June 16, 2010 at 6:22 pm |
  125. Craig Chilton

    We'll probably never know because it'll probably never happen as long as the money-printing presses are furnished with paper and ink. A fact that people have been learning over the last three decades or so (since the high inflation of the Carter administration) is that the national debt is VIRTUAL. As long as we keep doing business as usual, we'll probably never even notice it.

    Craig, in Evansdale, Iowa

    June 16, 2010 at 6:22 pm |
  126. Lary

    Total ban on Neo-con far right wako's. Stop corrupt military contracting. Stop starting wars for profit. Total reform of the way money and politics work (campaign reform to stop wealthy ruling class society). And eveything will be fine. Or ,...There will be destruction and hoards of poor people taking and not working for what they need for survival.....!

    June 16, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
  127. Paul in Ft. Myers, FL

    Austerity in the US..........Reduce the size of congress by half. If that doesn't do it then we should make them prove that they are doing the job and if not fire them. We could also see if the lobbyist would like to come down to Fla. and clean for a while to show they really care about the country.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
  128. Joe S Port Charlotte Fl

    Austerity in America would be total meltdown! No cell phones- No credit cards- No cable TV- Forced to eat dinner at home! WOW WHAT A BEAUTIFUL WORLD IT WOULD BE

    June 16, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
  129. Dana

    I work in local government and austerity will be a trickle down effect down to hometown roads, plowing, reduced police, fire and rescue. Schools closing, larger classes, limited garbage pick up, higher local fees, failing water and sewer systems. Austerity could look better, but federal and state governments would have to stop shifting the problem, and do their own serious cuts. But they don't. Get ready hometowns; we're the bottom of the food chain.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
  130. Isabel from Ann Arbor, Michigan

    The first, most responsible thing to do would be for our legislators to take an across-the-board 2% pay cut – demonstrating to the American People that they lead by example. After that, we could bring the troops home from Iraq (a non-war that never really had any point), and draw down our forces globally. The legislative pay cut should be followed by an administrative pay cut of the same magnitude. Resources would be concentrated here: in the US. Deficit spending would be outlawed. A Value Added Tax (VAT) could replace much of the income tax bureaucracy of the IRS, and Americans with family incomes less than $100,000 should not have to bother to file. Taxes on those making $100K or more would be properly collected, the IRS not having to bother with all the little guys. Am I dreaming? I hope not.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
  131. Ted

    If we are to survive, austerity in the US would mean increased taxes at all levels upon those who not hurting so much ... that top 10% or so who have 90% of the wealth and property ... to support needed assistance and public works projects so as to keep the recovery going. And of course more extensive and competent regulation of the penny-pinching and corner cutting, worship of the Holy Profit.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  132. Dennis

    State and local government spending is out of control. We have public employees retiring at age 55 and collecting a pension for 30 years and going back to work in similar positions. The unions that protect our public emplyees need to understand that we're in a "RECESSION" and it's not business as usual. We need to suspend certain entitlements until revenue increases at the state and local levels. In some ways this crisis is a blessing, just maybe spending will be curtailed?????

    June 16, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  133. Clarence Maloney

    Our civilization has become so complicated we need probably more government, not less. There is a simple way to pay for the government we need and balance our budget: gasoline should be $10 a gallon (rising $1 every year) to be in line with its costs in other "developed' countries. Also, there must be a carbon tax (not cap-and-trade). This would also fund alternative energy, and a national dense railway network.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  134. Robert Lemke

    The European crisis is an example of where America is heading. America once stood for self-sufficiency. We now ask the government to provide what we cannot provide for ourselves, or what we are too lazy to take care of. Every great nation and empire has fallen because of over-regulation and over-expansion. President Obama and other politicians consistently take the easy way out, using their government tools and agencies to cover up the unavoidable: A government and society that can no longer sustain itself. Afterall, the majority of society will always vote for a politician that gives free handouts, rather than politicians that stand for self-responsibility. We continue to regulate and expand our government to a point in which nobody will be self-sufficient, and will be fully reliant upon the government machine. A prosperous society relies upon free trade- this cannot exist through any type of government or regulation, only freedom.

    Robert Lemke
    San Francisco, CA

    June 16, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  135. Wayne

    When you look at your economy....you might want to turn your head north and see how Canadians have handled the rough times.......

    June 16, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  136. JY

    Look at Japan, Korea, China, etc. They all began developing by borrowing massively.

    They all have more and better government-provided healthcare and retirement security.

    They never squandered like Bush trying to invade other countries and rob some oil.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  137. Robert Ernster

    If coming close to having fiscal austerity means the electorate will give us another George Bush, forget it. We can't afford that again.
    Rob in South Dakota

    June 16, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  138. Joan Hurdle

    Even in Montana where we balance our budget, education cuts are being proposed. I hope that austerity would require the wealthy and the corporations to pay a much greater proportion of taxes. After all, that is where the money is!

    June 16, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  139. Russ in Colorado

    Italy is the only big-economy European country with more per capita public debt than America, and we have a lower tax rate than all of Europe. Among all industrialized nations the US government has the lowest income compared to expenditures. Italy is in big trouble, and we're next. What will fiscal austerity look like in the U.S.? A lot like Greece, and even more like the Italian meltdown that we are likely to see on CNN very soon. Tighten your belts, folks.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  140. Carl - Michigan

    As spoiled as we are there will be rioting and revolution before the bankruptcy.

    The final irony will be listening to those right wing nuts who today blindly demand cutting spending scream how the people are now being persecuted. Some people just like to b*tch for b*tching sake.

    It is time we man and woman up and face the inevitable change in our way of life.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:27 pm |
  141. William

    Less spending? Wasn't one of Obama's promise (among other failured ones) to downsize government? Now he wants to form an independent committee to investigate an oil spill that occured 40 miles offshore in International waters. Be careful, if BP gets enough shoved down their throat by Washington, they might just walk away from all their promised financial help.

    Vero, Florida

    June 16, 2010 at 6:27 pm |
  142. Gary

    I saw today a report on msnbc, where they said out of 750 billion in profits with the combined oil companies, not only did they NOT pay any taxes, they got back 156 million dollars in tax refunds.
    Then I hear when a vote came to stop their tax credits, it was overwhelmingly defeated at rate of like 30 to 60. So what's up with that? Republicans keep talking about saving money yet they don't tax one of the biggest profiting industries in the country? all that says to me is, they must have put some of that tax refund back into the pockets of lawmakers. Why else would they vote against such a measure? I'm confused. Tell me like I'm a ten year old. Why isn't the country up in arms over this? Why isn't this the lead story on EVERY news channel INCLUDING CNN? As an unemployed person who just ran out of benefits with no relief in sight, tell me why things are so bad for me when so many others have it so good?
    Is Canada excepting applications for citizens?

    Jasonville, Indiana

    June 16, 2010 at 6:27 pm |
  143. Harlequin Amoufhaz

    Harlequin Amoufhaz, Charleston, SC

    Once again, it is shown that money is really just another word for human trust. The dollar has no real value, it's just symbolic for the price of other things. If people can stomach this crap for awhile and not spend themselves into oblivion, they can suck it up and power through this. Hopefully, though, people realize Americans don't know what it is to be "poor" or "financially crippled" these days.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
  144. jim

    With all the crying by Conservatives about government spending has anyone heard any person in Congress offer to cut their staff. Do you raelly think they give any thought to what the future will bring.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
  145. Connie

    Jack, you ask some tough questions. Austerity in the US would look very different from business as usual;slow down troops to wars we cannot afford anymore, getting after big busineses and tax those who are hiding from taxes in other countries, but doing business here. Allow illegal drugs to become legal and put taxes on them. We need to stop fighting the lost war on illegal drugs and get them in our umbrella of legal pharmaceuticals with taxes..............( treatment will come later). Get rid of lobbying our congressional reps.........or make them pay through the teeth by corrupting the process. More common sense ideas are available.
    Connie, Florida

    June 16, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
  146. Jim Blevins

    It would look like the upper class won. This debt BS is mostly class warfare. It is just a way for the upper class to get control over the lower class. If the wealthy were paying their fair share, the debt would be paid off quickly. It is time for the USA to decide whether this is a country where all men are created equal or whether we are going to adopt a two class system of haves and have nots. Remember that the last attempt ended in WWII.

    Jim, Craig, CO

    June 16, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
  147. Patricia Robinson

    Along with the Federal and State Governments wide garage sale.....I think that fiscal austerity would bring people together in helping one another with the basic needs in life.

    It might be a good thing in some ways. People would get to know each other again, and churches would have to step into help .......not a bad idea..........and life would slow down. In some ways, it would be good for the country. Maybe the farms would be flourishing again.
    We would slow down as a country. Which wouldn't be a bad thing, I think.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
  148. Jason

    To understand what fiscal austerity would look like in the U.S. we have to understand what got us to where we are.
    Many people on T.V. are saying that government spending on services for the people caused this mess. This is not the case.
    A small number of exceedingly wealthy individuals inserted a straw into a main economic artery and sucked as hard as they could. This caused our economy to have a heart attack.
    90% of this nations wealth is in the hands of less than 1% of it's population. That is far worse than feudal Europe when a few families of nobles ruled over a peasant population.
    So what does a further reduction in government spending on the welfare of it's people look like? In one word, slavery.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
  149. Layne Alleman

    Jack, According to the economists (Richard Russell and others) that I'm paying attention to, the coming depression will make the one of the 20's-30's look like nothing more than a "market correction". As long as our government keeps printing "fiat" money(unbacked) we will slide into the abyss. "AUSTERITY"???, you must be kidding. The "Tea Party" is only the tip of the iceberg, this is going to be neighbor against neighbor by the time it's over. Public services are breaking down right now, wait for two or three years from now and I'm betting a call to 911 will get you a dial tone. We've deluded ourselves for years that "answers" were "right around the corner" , well, "right around the corner" has turned out to be a cliff, and we've got one foot over the edge and nothing to grab onto. I truly hope I'm proven wrong, but what I'm seeing around me says we're screwed. Layne A. Antioch, Il.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
  150. Ron Mowrey

    Dear Jack,
    This administration as well as many previous ones, both republican and democratic controlled, have perpetrated a financial crime on the American public. And yet they go on like nothing has happened. They vote themselves a raise while millions go jobless, homeless and hungry. They have robbed the social security trust fund over the decades to "balance" the budget rather than face the tough choices of cutting the federal workforce and pork projects. Shame on them all.
    When Obama took office he promised "change" and we will be lucky if there is any change left in our pockets. If he was for change he would have demanded that Congress take a drastic cut in pay. I think they need to take a 40-50% cut. Many Americans have taken a 100% cut. He should have slashed federal projects and the workforce by intelligently combining several agencies. And it is time that the states face layoffs in their ranks. We need to reign in government and bring it back to sanity.
    I was "downsized" out of my 6-figure job over 7 years ago and life has never been the same. It is a constant struggle for a now 63 year old. And my wife who is 62 was just laid off last month from her nursing job! So much for the golden years. Try getting a job at our ages.


    June 16, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
  151. Paulette in Dallas,PA

    The world is forever changing from the one we once knew. CNNMoney.com is reporting that the homeless population has increased and I personally feel that it is going to go up even more yet. Supposedly,75% of renegotiated morgages will default. Where will all these people go to live? The capitol of my state,Harrisburg,is said to be the "junkiest" city and it is considering bankruptcy. The cost of insurance is said to go up 9% in 2011. Insurance is being priced right out of the picture. Who will be able to afford it? Forget Obamacare and insurance for ALL – more people than ever will not have any. People won't fill perscriptions. Any of them will be too expensive. They won't go to the doctors or the hospital. Quality of life will be at an all time low. High unemployment and no new jobs on the horizon will lead to more crime. How will people be able to buy food to feed their families? Fiscal austerity will be extremely ugly and total chaos Jack. The fact that we even have to examine this option is a disgrace. All these politicans have brought this on to what was once the highest regarded and first rate nation on the earth and they don't even have the guts to admit that what they have created is another Depression not the "Great Recession."

    June 16, 2010 at 6:32 pm |
  152. Lisa


    It's not a question of if it will happen but when it will happen. Our government has been spending us into oblivion and encouraging us to do the same so that we can try to sustain an unsustainable system a while longer.

    If we think the housing and unemployment problems are bad now, just wait until the economy collapses. Thousands of people will be homeless, without food, without jobs, and without hope. The government will be an inept relic and as the old saying goes, our money won't be worth the paper it's printed on.

    Personally, I think our only hope is to look to leaders in our communities that see what's coming. Find the people who are trying to relocalize where they live and prepare for a post oil/economic collapse world.

    Jack, I'm 38 years old and compared to our parents and grandparents, we are very soft and in no way prepared for what's to come. If we want to make it, we'd better go back and take some lessons from the Great Depression and earlier. Better yet, take a look at the Amish. They probably won't even know there has been a collapse until they see us running mad in the streets.

    Lisa in Texas

    June 16, 2010 at 6:32 pm |
  153. Karl from SF, CA

    Only someone that has lived through the Great Depression can give us even peek into austerity. That' is as close as we have ever been to it.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:34 pm |
  154. Brian Wormald

    Jack – It's an irrelevant question – it won't happen. If it were tried, there would be civil unrest and violence. Things will not change no matter what.
    The fact that a bank was able to last year pay back it's $20B loan within 6 months and GM was able to repay it's loan only a couple of months ago shows me that NOTHING has changed in Corporate America. Greed is still good – and the public are being screwed. Where do people think the money came from to repay those debts – WITH interest no less!
    So, austerity ? When corporate America is happy with a sustainable single digit year-on-year growth, instead of raping the planet with striving for ongoing double digit growth, then we'll talk sense.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:34 pm |
  155. David P Vernon

    Tucson, AZ – A fiscally austere US would have a Defense budget one half the size of the present one, would have a value added tax system instead of an income tax system, there being NO potential loopholes in a VAT system, would have no price supports for any commodity and no depletion allowances for any natural resource. We can afford our "welfare state" such as it is, if the rich paid their fair share, Defense was really a security program instead of a jobs program, and there were no tax advantages to investing overseas instead of here.

    While military dictatorship is always the next step for a truly bankrupt democracy, we have a long way to go to get there from here – even Greece is not that close to bankruptcy and dictatorship now (although they have been there before!) Blaming the President is stupid – it is the Congress that raises the taxes and spends the money, not the White House, no matter what anyone in the "media" may say. True, the President is required to submit a budget, but the Congress is not required either to pass a budget or to follow the budget it does pass, if any.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:34 pm |
  156. john

    oh, c'mon. it's not like the money really exists anywhere in the world. if it did, when one country got poorer, another would get richer. instead, when markets go down, everyone in the world loses.
    what is really going on is that too many people want to live too high on the hog while the rest live in strife.
    the problem is TMDP–too many damn people. this is the problem that no one wants to address.
    austerity could be the most pleasant of our eventualities.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:35 pm |
  157. William

    Fiscal Austerity? Obama to Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.........what oil spill? We got no money to help you. I need to send your tax dollars to countries where people have to eat.

    Vero, Fl.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:39 pm |
  158. Scott Allie

    I belive you've already pointed out what fiscal austerity looks like in the U.S.A. . The printing presses are running at full speed now.

    Our bloated gov. cant seem to see the forrest for the trees. They need to stop spending the money that we obviously do not have.
    I.E. We are spending Billions trying to educate the Mexicans that illegaly cross our boarder every day. WE are feeding lazy people that breed like rabbits,but dont want to work. We are paying outrageous saleries to our public officials who do little to nothing. I could go on for days and not be able to cover all of our insanitys.
    This is a soar subject that requires our full attention now, not tomorrow, when it is too late. Thanks for allowing me to vent my frustrations.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
  159. artiecofield

    Like everything else in this country, a joke whose punchline is swayed by public opinion. There will always be loophole that everyone knows is there but public opinion i.e. 'group think' demands that a blind eye be turned. Think of slavery, women's suffrage, prohibition, civil rights, legal marijuana, inter- racial marriage, immigration, same sex marriage, etc... We have the habit of not doing what's right but rather what is popular. So fiscal austerity wouldn't work because it isn't popular. Who gives a damm if it is morally right.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
  160. A. in DFW

    A great depression that doesn't end.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:41 pm |
  161. Dot Atascosa TX

    Look at Texas (flood, fire hurricaine)
    Louisanna (hurricaine, oil spill)
    Mississippi (hurricaine, flood)
    Alabama (hurricaine, flood)
    Indianna (flood)
    Oklahoma (fire, floods, tornados)
    etc etc etc
    ALL screaming for federal action, yet EACH one of their *politicans* are the 1st to scream about fiscal irresponsibility.

    but then you look at the above list and think IOKIYAR
    (it's ok if you're a republican)
    how about if we just said NO to them?

    As afra as Greece goes, 87% do not pay taxes, a haven for the rich. Just the place WE are heading THAT is the future face of the US.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:42 pm |
  162. Randy

    Many workers are paid benefits by the state, much additional currency is being printed, fueling hyperinflation. Since China has most of the industry we have no goods with which to trade. The government is printing more money to deal with the crisis; this is allowing the USA to pay off bank loans and reparations with soon to be worthless dollars, and help formerly great banks to pay back their own loans. This also leads to pay raises for CEOs and for businessmen who wanted to profit from it. Circulation of money is rocketing, and soon we'll discover our money is worthless. This progress is funded by overseas loans, increasing the nation's debts, while overall trade decreases and unemployment rises. Reforms do not relieve the underlying weaknesses and gives the appearance of a stable democracy.The growing dependence on foriegn finance proves dangerous as we were one of the worst hit nations in the Wall Street Crash .

    June 16, 2010 at 6:46 pm |
  163. Mike

    Easy come Easy go. Too bad we don't have more folks still around from the depression era. If you don't have the money don't spend it – obvisiously our leaders on Capital Hill were not around in the mid-1930s. It's scarey what could happen if Europe fails, as to the fall out that will immediately backlash on to the USA.

    June 16, 2010 at 6:47 pm |