Amount due: $455K. Each.October 20, 2008 — Deacon Duncan
Here’s Chuck Colson quoting a friend of his in the financial sector:
“As disruptive and damaging as today’s mortgage sub-prime crisis is,” he warns, “We’re looking at a “super sub-prime” crisis, which, if left unaddressed, will hurt many more Americans—and hurt much worse.”
Among many inconvenient truths: “Each household’s share of the nation’s $53 trillion debt is $455,000—almost 10 times the median household income. This is unfinanceable!” he clearly warns.
His friend, Pete Peterson, is “a shrewd guy who became Secretary of Commerce and made a small fortune in the financial world.” I’m not a Wall Street financier, but those sound like reasonably accurate figures to me. And think what they mean: each and every household in America is almost half a million dollars in debt, above and beyond any mortgages, credit cards, car payments, or other obligations they may owe.
Colson’s solution, sadly, is almost humorous in its predictable self-centered short-sightedness.
[Peterson's] message in the advertisement was a heroic call to Americans to take over the political process before it’s too late…
And he wants to know if [the presidential candidates] support a bi-partisan commission to review everything on the table and make recommendations with a guaranteed up-or-down vote by the next Congress.
Congressman Frank Wolf, my friend, has proposed such a commission, called SAFE. It would examine all entitlements, identify what we can afford—and slash what we cannot.
Yes, the answer to all our financial woes is simple: take it out on the poor. Don’t expect the American people—especially the wealthy and powerful ones—to begin paying back any of the money we owe, in the form of higher taxes. Find the people who depend the most on state-sponsored benefits, and who are least able to mount an effective campaign in defense of their own interests, and penalize them.
What Colson doesn’t mention is that Americans already control the political process. We pick the people who are passing these laws, and if we don’t like what they’re doing, we kick them out. The problem isn’t that we lack control over Congress, it’s that we lack self-control. We keep electing these Credit Card Republicans who promise to cut what we pay for government, without actually reducing the size or expenditures of the government. Once in office, what do they do? They just charge it to the future, and run up the national debt, to the tune of half a million dollars per household.
I wish I could say the Democrats were any better, but they’re not, though I think they have a slightly better record in terms of fiscal responsibility. But Colson is right about one thing: we need to do something about the problem. Governments are no more magical than anyone else: when their debts exceed their ability to pay, they’re in trouble. Unlike individual people, however, they can’t just declare bankruptcy and move on. They collapse, dragging the nation down with them.
Colson is indulging in typical conservative exaggeration when he suggests that the poor are receiving such a large amount of cash benefits that we could pay of the national debt just by ignoring the needy. The “SAFE” proposal (which probably stands for “Security for Affluent Fiscal Engineers”) merely exploits the problem in order to advance a conservative agenda. What we really need to do, as a nation, is to accept responsibility for the choices we’ve made in the past, and prepare to pay for our mistakes (literally). Go back to the kind of budget surpluses we used to have under Clinton, and use those surpluses to retire the national debt. Don’t just take it out on the poor, but tighten the belt across the board, even in areas that are financially beneficial to Republicans.
We got a national debt because we voted for it. It’s our debt, and it’s up to us all to pay it back.