During the Cold War in the 50s and 60s, we thought the end of the world might someday come from what we then called “thermo-nuclear war.”
I remember the same concerns when I was in graduate school during the late 70s, early 80s, studying for advanced degrees in political science. We talked about nuclear arms, MAD or Mutually Assured Destruction, ICBMs, and a few other scenarios involving “nukes.” It almost seems quaint now.
Whether you drew end of the world scenarios from international geo-politics, vast armies, even space age weaponry like “Star Wars,” or whether you drew them from biblical prophecy, most of us didn’t think about debt.
Yet national debt, deficit spending, and unbalanced budgets are now the greatest threats to future wellbeing in the West.
The United States is now $15 Trillion in debt. For the first time, our national debt equals about 100% of our annual GDP. Add to this the ill advised Bush Administration unfunded increases in Medicare prescription programs (when unfunded wars are included, Bush doubled national debt in less than five years) and the 2008 Obama Administration bailouts.
And it’s not just us. European countries are in a debt mess, “led” by Greece, and followed by Portugal, Spain, and more. Greece’s debt (until European Union nations and banks decided to “forgive” some of it) stands at 150% of its struggling GDP. Still, even with this, Greece is scheduling a referendum this week to determine whether Greeks will accept required “austerity” measures. Honestly, who do Greeks think should pay for their lifestyle choices?
Too many European countries still want a welfare state they can’t afford. They want to retire early, like age 57 in Greece or Italy. They want no increases in generous tuition. They want someone else to foot the bill. The U.S. isn’t far behind. It’s all quite scary.
Yet we’re not beyond fixing the problem. The American people's ingenuity and the potential strength of this economy remain phenomenal. But do we as a people, as a culture, do we have the political will and resolve to fix the problem? As they say, it’s not rocket science. It’s just common sense financial wisdom based on centuries of verifiable experience.
More, do we have the political leadership on either side of the aisle, do we have the moral strength to lead, tell the truth, bite the bullet, and stick to it? At the moment, I can’t see it, and that’s scarier still.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
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