national debt ball knocks over American flag dominoes
America’s Future Clouded By Illegal Immigration, Uncontrolled Debt

February 2, 2024

By Dr. Thomas Patterson |

Americans are feeling growing unease about the accumulating dysfunctions afflicting us which seem to elude governmental solutions. The combination of weak leadership and irresolute voters has led to diminished standing internationally, inflation, rising crime rates, energy shortages, the hollowing out of once-great cities, and persistent racial disparities.

Yet the greatest threats of all to our future are the national debt and illegal immigration, both of which are wildly out of control. These two dangers, if not soon contained, threaten to consign our beloved nation to second-tier status.

Yes, it could happen. Americans tend to believe that everything will be OK, because this is America where everything naturally gets better.

But there’s nothing inevitable about our good fortune. Yes, we have a fortuitous history, but the music could stop at any time if we habitually neglect the discipline necessary for successful self-government.

There’s even an ominous question of whether the debt and illegal immigration are even solvable at this point. Yes, we’ve carried high debt loads before, notably after World War II. Strong economic growth rescued us then. Innovation and improved productivity are again our only realistic hope of avoiding sharp economic decline.

But we’ve worked ourselves into a dangerous situation, where our annual debt service has reached $1 trillion. We are forced to borrow to make interest payments while our debt continues to grow – a death spiral normally leading to bankruptcy. Creditors will soon demand higher interest payments, and many may refuse to buy our debt altogether.

The effects of the massive migration of the last few years will also be difficult to reverse. Even if we ended illegal immigration today, the 20 million new residents among us aren’t going home, and deportation of this scope may be impossible.

At least two million are “gotaways” who intentionally avoided border check points, for reasons we can easily guess. This means not only will our lives become more dangerous, but social, educational, and criminal justice systems will all be undergoing stress tests just at a time when we are running out of money (see above).

Sure, Democrats have enthusiastically led the open borders craze. They ludicrously claim there is nothing they can do unless Republicans will legislate more, spend more, and agree to comprehensive immigration reform, a.k.a. universal amnesty.

But Republicans had their chance to close the border and didn’t. Instead of cutting back immigration, the Trump administration could have used executive authority to close the border entirely to unauthorized entry, as the law requires.

Americans’ traditional respect for the Rule of Law is a linchpin of our national success. We ignore it to our detriment. We now will pay an awful price for keeping the door cracked a little open when the law is clear.

Democrats have also led the charge for irresponsible spending for false reasons (COVID) or for pure political gain (student loan forgiveness). But Republicans have failed to be the adults in the room, quailing at the threatened “government shutdowns” during spending debates, sneakily supporting spending abuses like earmarks, and generally refusing to expend political capital on spending reductions.

When you’re in a hole, stop digging, right? The first orders of business are to close the border and balance the budget. Both require prodigious amounts of political will, and these are just the first steps.

There is some hope in the sudden transformation of the formerly sanctimonious sanctuary city jurisdictions. When faced with the realities of millions of unvetted, unskilled dependents demanding…well, everything, they are swiftly losing their enthusiasm.

For now, the self-described humanitarians are demanding more help in processing and caring for illegal immigrants, but it’s likely they will become more realistic before long. We’ll see. Voters clearly respond more constructively to crises which affect them personally, which our unmanageable debt will also soon begin to do.

Many historians believe we are seeing the inevitable decline of a still great civilization, a highly successful republic that by choice never became an empire yet achieved dominance and wealth. Like many before us, prosperity produced softness and self-indulgence in the citizenry and so we too may sink into the dustbin of history.

Somehow, we must not – we cannot – let that happen.

Dr. Thomas Patterson, former Chairman of the Goldwater Institute, is a retired emergency physician. He served as an Arizona State senator for 10 years in the 1990s, and as Majority Leader from 93-96. He is the author of Arizona’s original charter schools bill.

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