Sunday, July 31, 2011

Passing Thoughts on The Debt Ceiling

Every time a school year draws to a close and I send another class away from the relative safety of a high school environment, I start to despair. I look at those kids with their graduation day smiles and their unending optimism, and I wonder how the hell they're going to survive in the world that they're going to inherit.

The hysteria over the debt ceiling is starting to disgust me. All I see on TV is finger-pointing and political theater as democrats and republicans try to paper over the government's financial problems, stick some future generation with paying for it, and look like heroes doing it. They will succeed on all three counts.

What burns me up the most is the talk about defaulting. The government will default on its debts if the ceiling isn't raised! Something must be done! I have news, folks. The government defaults on its obligations every day. It has defaulted on its centuries-old obligation to maintain our freedom. Freedoms promised us in the Bill of Rights; freedom to make a living how we want; freedom to travel; freedom to make our own choices in what to buy or sell, freedom to plan our own retirements; and freedom from crime, endless war, and rules that regulate nearly every human behavior.

Of course I understand that liberty doesn't mean squat to the average American. But the government does default on its pecuniary obligations as well. It defaults every time it devalues its currency, but it also assures default by making impossible promises which other people are expected to pay for. The tab for these promises grows by the minute, and at some point, that bag will be too big for some generation to be left holding.

Think this will never happen? Do you really believe we can continue like this for another fifty years? Whose problem do you think it will be when our government's creditors stop lending it money? It sure as hell won't matter to guys like Boehner and Obama; they'll be long gone when this happens. No, the rug's coming out from under our children in the form of either crushing taxation, runaway inflation, or promises that will never be kept. And then things are going to get ugly.

We're still at a stage where things can be fixed with a minimum of pain. They could refuse to raise the debt limit, forego their own paychecks, admit that most of the promises government has made are illegitimate, and start having a real transparent discussion about how to renege on those phony untenable promises in the least painful way possible. But that will never happen. Ever.

Instead, all I hear about is some vague talk about debt limit increases, tax cuts over ten years, and bipartisan compromise. It's the compromise that scares me, because all it means is that both political parties get what they want, and government continues to grow. The only thing that will be compromised will be our posterity's standard of living if we continue to elect the same people who've been squandering our resources and labor for decades.

Maybe the lesson to take away from this is that the importance of independence can't be overstated. Turn off the TV, stop taking every political promise at face value, and start looking for ways to be more independent. Let this and future debt ceiling "debates" remind you that the less your fate is in the hands of politicians, the better; and pass this message on to your children as I try to pass it to my students.

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