Living (and Dying) Beyond Our Means (Part 1)

There is an old adage that goes “Those who love their children plants flowers, those who love their grandchildren plant trees.” Along the same lines, the Six Nation/Iroquois cautioned their leaders that the effects of their choices needed to be considered “to the seventh generation.” The wisdom expressed in both cases should be self-evident.

But what can be said for a society that feeds both its needs and its desires by stealing from its children, grandchildren, etc. down to the seventh generation and even beyond? What can be said for leaders whose consideration of the future goes no further than the next election cycle and whose moral vision extends no further than the principles of politics and power?

This is where we are today, and the selfishness of our political leadership is reinforced  across every strata of society and every age group by an ethic of consumption that defines each of us not as citizens, nor as created beings, but only as consumers. Notions such as duty, honor, character, faith, and personal responsibility and accountability are often dismissed as at best quaint, and at worst as anachronistic signs of gullibility or simple-mindedness.  People who speak up for such notions are often ridiculed as “culturally backward”  and demeaned by those who listen to more “nuanced” voices.

Recent tests given by the National Assessment for Educational Progress clearly show that most Americans today have little understanding of how our nation was born nor of the values and shared ethic that brought it to greatness. I would add that most of my fellow Americans and especially our current leaders have less long term concern for the direction in which this nation is headed.  We have too many concerns and desires that need accommodation in this present moment to think the about the quality of all the tomorrows that await our progeny.

Over the past three years, our national debt has increased by more than $5 trillion dollars.  Those are real dollars, folks, the kind that have to eventually be  paid back. Within ten years, the INTEREST service alone on our national debt (never mind paying down the principal) will be the largest item in the federal budget, more than any social entitlement program, more than defense spending. By its owm estimate, the Obama administration says that by the end of a second Obama term, our national debt will be more than $24 trillion dollars. That’s an increase of over  $14 trillion dollars of debt in 8 years. And that assumes a rosy economic recovery and no major new social program expenditures!  The Bush administration that preceded it was liable for a $4.3 trillion debt increase in 8 years, so they have a share in this responsibility as well.

The current national debt is bad enough.  But the numbers on governmental financial obligations are even more staggering. But already, even before the beginning of ObamaCare, the government has added an additional $9 trillion in entitlement obligations for the next decade, to a grand total of $61.6 trillion in such obligations it is currently committed to pay.

The path we are on is not sustainable. It is not sustainable even if we tax all the millionaires at a rate of 100%. Like a fat man who just can’t stop eating, we consume more and more, expect more and more as our personal entitlements, and think less and less about the future implications.  But like a fat man on an eating binge, our long term health suffers with each day of excess.

This way of living is fundamentally dishonest as well as destructive. And it can only be publicly  justified by obfuscation and dishonestly on the part of our leaders whose actions are destructive of the very foundations of a moral, democratic society.

Those who try to point out these dangers become the targets of vested interests who first try to demagogue them into silence and then try to discredit them as alarmists.  Contrarily, the very massive social programs that are going to bankrupt our offspring are extolled and justified by their proponents as necessary to ensure a better future for our children. It’s perverse.

I love my children and my grandchildren. And if that means going without so that they can graduate from college debt free, so be it.  And if it means not passing any of my bills on to them to pay off after I am gone, so be it. If you love someone, don’t impose burdens on them that restrict their liberty and opportunity. I just wish my government and more of my countrymen would do the same.

More on this next week.

2 responses to “Living (and Dying) Beyond Our Means (Part 1)

  1. As usual, Bob, I found myself thinking of my feelings on this only to find that you then covered it with the ensuing sentence!

    While I tend to blame the Democrats more for this than the GOP, I would be naive in believing that all Republicans are along the line of Jim DeMint, Mike Pence, Marco Rubio, etc. Too often, our elected reps are holding their fingers in the air which shows nothing of commitment to principle but rather to re-election.

    Let’s see if the GOP sells out on this debt ceiling brouhaha. If they do, they will be guilty of misreading the results of last November as being a vote for them.

    • The comic aspect to all of this is that both sides have spent more time posturing than addressing our real problems as a nation, and they think that people are going to buy into this. The chutzpah behind Obama’s efforts yesterday to pose as a
      voice of moderation” is of a magnitude rarely seen. (And today his persona is that of scare-monger, as he says the Social Security checks my not go out on August 3 – pure BS. The savvy response to this would be “So you are ready to pay the Chinese investors before meeting your obligation to the American people?”) The flip side to comedy, of course, is tragedy and that is where we seem to be heading. This country, along with several in Europe, is farther along the road to bankruptcy than anyone cares to admit. The bottom line is that at present levels, government obligations to entitlements is already greater than we can hope to meet without major structural changes to the economy and to the relationship between the people and the government. The resolution of this problem is going to test the basic fabric of American society, I fear.

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