Now we’re getting tough! Since the Tea Party Turnaround last November the new Republican majority in Congress is taking the bull by the horns and showing that they mean business! They would only agree to raise the debt limit for two weeks. That’s like telling your shopaholic alter ego who’s emptied the family savings, overdrawn the checkbook, mortgaged the house, and taken out a juice loan with a loan shark just to cover the interest, “This has got to stop! Here’s a new credit card, but you can only use it for two weeks.” How could that possibly go wrong? Just charge it to someone who hasn’t been born yet. They never seem to complain.
In a letter to James Madison, referring to the idea of running up a national debt beyond the power of the current generation to fully fund or pay off, Thomas Jefferson said, “I say, the earth belongs to each of these generations during its course, fully and in its own right. The second generation receives it clear of the debts and encumbrances of the first, the third of the second, and so on. For if the first could charge it with a debt, then the earth would belong to the dead and not to the living generation. Then, no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence.”
Currently the national debt of the United States stands at over 14 trillion dollars and it’s growing at the rate of more than one trillion per year for as far as the eye can see. It has increased by an average of $4.13 billion per day since September 28, 2007. We can question the wisdom of this but did you know that it is illegal to question the validity of the practice? According to the14th amendment Section 4 it’s illegal to question the validity of the National Debt. This section says, “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law … shall not be questioned.”
When we take actions like making health care a right we have just placed an obligation on everyone else to pay for it. I want to be healthy. I want everyone else to be healthy. I also want the economy to be healthy. Creating another entitlement that requires taking money from productive people and using it to give benefits to a third party only points to the coming double-dip in this Great Recession and the shell game which is our national budget. We sent Bernie Maddoff to jail for doing on a smaller scale what our government does every day: robbing Peter to pay Paul. The problem with robbing Peter to pay Paul is eventually Peter changes his name to Paul.
Although it was stated before it was illegal to do so Thomas Jefferson was willing to say the practice of robbing our children and grandchildren because we cannot quit spending is not a valid way to manage our affairs, “The conclusion then, is, that neither the representatives of a nation, nor the whole nation itself assembled, can validly engage debts beyond what they may pay in their own time.”
Along with much of the wisdom of our Founders this has been forgotten by an ever-growing government seeking to be all things to all people. Our current leaders may have forgotten the wisdom of our Founders but they seem to have accepted the wisdom of Salvador Dali, “I believe that the moment is near when by a procedure of active paranoiac thought, it will be possible to systematize confusion and contribute to the total discrediting of the world of reality.” This may describe our current descent into the bizarre world of a fundamentally Transformed America, but it doesn’t sound promising as a plan for political success.
We can’t spend our way to prosperity. We can’t borrow our way to solvency, and we shouldn’t condemn our descendants to a life of limited opportunity crushed under the debt for the entitlements we wanted but couldn’t afford. That’s the reality our actions are ignoring as our shopaholic alter ego pouts, “But, I want it now!”
Dr. Robert R. Owens teaches history, political science, religion, and leadership for Southside Virginia Community College. Dr. Owens is the author of “America Won the Vietnam War,” “The Asuza Street Revival,” and called “The Constitution Failed.” He is available for speaking engagements.