Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stop playing the "Kid" card!

For years I’ve sat back and listened to (mostly) conservatives talk about not passing along “our debt” to their children. Most recently, in response to the President’s State of the Union Address, Congressman Paul Ryan said:

On this current path, when my three children – who are 6,7, and 8 years old – are raising their own children, the federal government will double in size, and so will the taxes they pay.


The next generation will inherit a stagnant economy and a diminished country.


Frankly, it’s one of my greatest concerns as a parent – and I know many of you feel the same way.
REALLY? One of your greatest concerns? Not nuclear war? Not a solar flare? Not some unknown virus? But the debt? Really?

Please don’t get me wrong. I know every parent out their loves their children. I also know that you want your child to have it better and do better than you, and we all want the next generation to have it better than we did. But am I the only one that thinks this type of attitude is a tad bit …. Bull shittish!

Admittedly, some of my attitude is based in selfishness. If I pass on the debt to the next generation, SO WHAT? By then I will be dead and gone and what happens after my lifetime… happens after my lifetime. (I know, that sounds bad doesn't it?  But hay, I'm being honest!)

The rest of my attitude is based in a reality that those on the right seem to be void of. Let’s start with the fact that the US debt has been passing from generation to generation since the founding of the country. Debts incurred during the Revolutionary War and under the Articles of Confederation had a reported value of $75 Million. After the Civil War our debt grew to over $2.7 Billion.  Not only is it not as apocalyptic as Congressman Ryan explains it to be, but running a debt is actually … normal. Most economists even agree that using the deficit to push the economy out of a recession is useful, not harmful.  And to my knowledge, no generation has come to an end, the world didn't end, and low and behold - Like Celie from The Color Purple - I'm still here. 

Again, don’t mistake what I’m saying. I understand that our debt is growing, I also understand that the percentage of our debt to the GDP is growing. This is absolutely an issue that needs to be addressed. But not because my kids may have to “deal” with it!  I'm just not buying it!

To me, there is perceived wealth and debt, and then there is actual wealth and debt. Actual debt is that damn lady from the student loan place that calls me every Saturday morning! That is actual debt. On the other hand, the national debt equates to $45,000+ per person in the US. The debt under at the end of President Reagan’s term was $11,577 per person. If you were born at that time, you are over 21 now… you ARE the next generation, has anyone collected that $11,577 from you yet?  Any phone calls?  What about your parents, did they receive that call?  A letter in the mail?  An email?  Something? I bet you’ve been called about that credit card you got when you thought you were just getting a free t-shirt when you signed up in college right?  Why is that?  It's because, as citizens, we deal with the needed adjustments day in and day out.  Whether it is through changes in government programs that happen with the change of EVERY administration, or the raising and lowering of goods/taxes.  We see it everyday and though we may not like it, we are used to it.  The next generation will be the same as the one before it, and the one before that. 

The fact is, generation after generation gets stronger and stronger. We’ve ALWAYS had to adjust and adapt, and this is NO different. Our history is all about one generation creating challenges for the next. What makes us stronger is our ability to meet and overcome those challenges. You want to build an atomic bomb? We will work on treaties to never use those bombs. You want to build a vehicle that moves faster than the horse and buggy, then we will build roads and highways to accommodate. We have more things that cause cancer TODAY because of the things discovered/invented by past generations and every day we make advancements in medicine to live longer and healthier lives. Heck, it wasn’t two decades ago that we couldn’t even eat red m&ms. Now there is a jar of m&ms on someone’s desk in every office in the country.

Not to mention that most of the debt we incur, we benefit from it every day. From national security, to Social Security, our lives are better than the rest of the world, because prior generations had “debt.” Today we both benefit from and deal with the offspring of choices made from those that came before us. It is what keeps us going. Our parents did it, we are doing it, and regardless of how much we would like to THINK we are making a difference, our children and children’s children will have to deal with our choices.

So while I’m all for fiscal responsibility. I’m all for bringing down the debt, and I’m all for making a better place for generations to come. I’m also putting things into perspective. If you want to come to the table to debate the problems and solutions to our National Debt, starting that discussion with “what about the children” will fall on deaf ears.

Am I wrong? Should I care as much as Congressman Ryan does about passing the debt on to our children?
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