Hugh’s House Hunting With Mark Steyn
HH: I begin with Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. You can read everything Mark writes at www.steynonline.com. Mark, a good Thursday to you.
MS: Hey, happy Thursday to you, too, Hugh.
HH: It’s a very happy Thursday, because Joe Biden was speaking today, so I have no prep at all to do except to play for you the money line of Joe Biden’s speech, cut number one:
JB: Now is the time to heed the timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt – Speak softly and carry a big stick. End of quote. I promise you, the President has a big stick. I promise you.
HH: Mark Steyn?
MS: (laughing) Yeah, if the President has a big stick, it’s the Vice President who should certainly be speaking softly. This was, and we should try and at least take this a little bit seriously, Hugh. He was talking in reference to foreign policy, and if it is true that the President has a big stick, then I think he should take the advice of Milton Berle, who said that when challenged in such matters at the Friars’ Club, he only took out just enough to win. I think the President should take out just enough to win in the Middle East and elsewhere.
HH: I’ve got to play for you Joe getting very serious, his hushed tone of voice, cut number five:
JB: Thus far, Governor Romney has not made many foreign policy-focused decisions or pronouncements. Foreign policy has not been a focus of his campaign. Now if you excuse me a point of personal privilege, given President Obama’s record, the strongest foreign policy in decades, I can understand why Governor Romney doesn’t want to make it a focus of his campaign. But it is. These are critical issues.
HH: Strongest foreign policy in decades, question mark, Mark Steyn?
MS: Yeah, I know, there’s a story today I just mentioned at National Review about the new Egyptian parliament considering a law permitting Muslim men to have sex with the corpses of their deceased wives for up to six hours after they’ve died. In the Egyptian parliament, in the Egyptian election, it’s basically a choice between the Muslim Brotherhood and the even more Muslim Brotherhood. In Libya, the new pro-Libyan freedom fighters have smashed the graves of British Commonwealth war veterans. The world, what we’re seeing in the Middle East is the post-American Middle East. What we’re seeing in the broader world is the outlines of the post-American world. Mitt Romney will have no trouble whatsoever portraying Obama as a man who is consigning the American moment to the pages of history.
HH: Mark Steyn, this, yesterday, I spent a lot of the time talking to college students, or recent grads, about how much debt they had. And the figures are somewhat staggering. It was a low number if only someone had accumulated $40,000 in debt. We had one $200,000 dollars of debt. That was a husband and wife couple, and one over $400,000 of debt. It was a medical doctor. And the President’s out there arguing hey, I’m going to save you, well, let me play for you what the President had to say.
BHO: You’ll you’ll you’ll hear a lot of folks say yeah, education is important, it’s important. But, but, but it requires not just words but deeds. And the fact is since most of you were born, tuition and fees at America’s colleges have more than doubled. And that forces students like you to take out a lot more loans, there are fewer grants, you rack up more debt. Can I get an Amen?
HH: Can you give him an Amen, Mark Steyn?
MS: No, I can’t. I mean, Americans collectively have over a trillion dollars in just college debt. That’s just one boutique category of debt that barely exists in other countries. That’s the equivalent of about the entire GDP of South Korea. And in most cases, it’s for nothing worth acquiring that debt for. One in two recent graduates are employed. There is a debt figure here, and the debt figure is this, that every American, every single American, whether you’re talking about those college students, or you’re talking about nonagenarian retirees, or you’re talking about newborn babies, has, is born now with an average of $200,000 dollars worth of debt, about just shy of $700,000 dollars per family, which is going to kill, absolutely going to kill this country. I mean, if you take, if you take all levels of federal, state, municipal and personal debt, it averages out at $200,000 dollars per man, woman, child and retiree. And the idea that acquiring the equivalent of the GDP of South Korea or Australia, holding that just in college debt, is absolutely ridiculous. And it’s the government distortion of the further education market. I mean, this is one of the great crises of America, I think, is that it often has all the costs, all the incompetence of a government system, but without the lavish subsidies. We’ve, the government has distorted the housing market, the government has distorted the banking sector, the government has distorted the education system. There’s not a lot left to wreck.
HH: Yuval Levin is the editor of the National Affairs, and his new book, A Time For Governing, I’m going to spend a lot of time with him tomorrow. There are solutions, Mark Steyn. Things can be done, but they would require a wholesale rejection of the political class that governs right now. But if they don’t do it, George Will has a column out today, Illinois is running out of time and money. Illinois is actually teetering on collapse. They got there before California of all people.
MS: Right, right.
HH: Do you think that the electorate understands this?
MS: No, I don’t, and I think there is a kind of delusion out there that these figures are so vast. I mean, in a sense, if you’re in Greece or Spain or Portugal or whatever, the numbers are kind of manageable, because they’re just a few rinky-dink billions here. Many of our states are actually in a far worse situation already than the basket cases in Southern Europe. And I don’t think people get that. People think that somehow because we’ve been doing it for so long, we can carry on doing it. It took the first two centuries for the United States to rack up a trillion dollars of debt. We got there in 1982. In other words, it took from 1776 to 1982 to rack up the first trillion dollars in debt. That’s now what the national government racks up routinely in new debt every seven months. And state governments, the ridiculous government in California, where in your ludicrous state, where they’re coming up continuously with new laws making it a criminal act if you’ve got a motel to have non-fitted sheets on the bed, and erecting a vast bureaucracy to go and kick down the door of the Shady Nook Motel and see if they’re using state-approved elasticated sheets in there? There’s no end to this, and it will drive this country off the cliff. It doesn’t matter how big your stick is. No matter how big your stick is, if you’re sawing the branch off, eventually you drop off the abyss. No matter how big your stick is.
HH: Now also in the Will column, he pointed out that from September through December, 2008, the premium that investors demanded before they would buy California debt rather than U.S. Treasuries jumped from 24 to 271 basis points. That was 2% plus jump in four months.
HH: And he’s saying look, the bond market’s going to work. It’s going to work no matter what’s the bond that’s issued. We can’t, no one’s going to sell us this debt before much longer.
MS: No, and already, if you take the last year, 61% of federal debt was actually bought by, which is the least, as you’ve just pointed out, is the least unwanted debt that Americans are currently offering to the market, 61% of that was actually bought by the Federal Reserve. There’s no one out there. There’s no one out there to cover this level of spending, and this level of insanity. And California, and these other spendthrift states, think that they’re too big to fail, and that the federal bailout will come along at any minute. I don’t think, I mean, I live in one of the more fiscally prudent states, New Hampshire. I don’t want to pay for you guys in California. You did this to yourselves. It has nothing to do with me. Why the hell should I pay for it, or some guy in Wyoming?
HH: Oh, come on, Mark, give me your house. Just give me your house.
MS: No, I’m not going to give you my house. I don’t want to destroy the value of my house to prop up a lot of stupid subdivisions that have been built out in California. You guys fix that. It’s easier just to get out of the state.
HH: Duane and Adam and I are nice. Duane and Adam and I are nice guys. Give us your house.
MS: I don’t want to give you…you know, my advice to anybody who’s left in the productive class in California is go East, young man, or go North, young man, or go South, young man. But get the hell out of that state.
HH: (laughing) On that note, Mark Steyn, always a pleasure, but I still want your house. We’re coming for it if Obama wins.
End of interview.