William Shakespeare, in “The Rape of Lucrece” (lines 211-214), states:
“What win I, if I gain the thing I seek?
A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy.
Who buys a minute’s mirth to wail a week,
or sells eternity to get a toy?”
Consider these lines for a moment, not as part of the greater work, but as a pattern to be laid over the actions of the politicians elected to office, who have sold liberty and freedom for “a toy.” Those same politicians who will seek their personal gain as a “dream, a breath,” or a “fleeting joy” are the same politicians who will buy with your money mirth, happiness, and prosperity so that the rest of the country can wail, cry, and suffer.
At its founding, the Republic struggled to get out of debt caused by the Revolutionary War. Through work, sacrifice, and determination, the captivity of debt was eventually canceled. The debt was considered captivity and remains the antithesis of liberty. Yet, everywhere we look, the politicians buy personal power, with the public’s money, for a minute of fleeting joy, while everyone else suffers for weeks and years on end.
As a kid, I read a Newsweek or Time article on how long the National Debt would take to pay off. I have never found this article again, which is a tragedy, for I would quote the source heavily. However, since the debt has ballooned over the last four American Presidents, it would be safe to say that the article I read as a kid is “out of date.” We find some troubling facts about debt’s captivity from the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).
Consider the following, economics is not a hard and challenging topic, and I promise what is being offered is easy to follow. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is what the country earns as a paycheck. Currently, what we owe on the national debt is 106 times greater than the GDP. This means that with interest for the debt presently owed, America cannot produce enough to cover the payments for the fleeting joys enjoyed by her politicians. Essentially, since America cannot produce more products for trade and sale, the ability to meet our debt obligations per paycheck has been wiped out, and we still owe more per paycheck than we earn.
Consider what happened with Hurricane Katrina: hundreds and thousands of people were displaced, hundreds needed airlifts of food and water, thousands of homes were flooded, and Katrina’s recovery cost is still ongoing. President Bush II took a political hit by the media, and the political left and their media lapdogs had a field day on the suffering and devastation during an American Natural disaster. Would you be surprised if I told you the real culprits for failing to protect the citizens from harm properly was not the Federal or State government’s job? Would you consider that the local authorities, even some of those who went to jail for embezzlement, were guilty of other crimes that have so far gone unpunished?
Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, several states suffered major flooding. Iowa was one of these states. The flooding in Iowa was just as traumatic and costly, but no one ever hears a word about this flooding unless you follow natural disasters as a hobby. Why the difference between Iowa and Louisiana? The response by the local government. The local government’s planning and preparation and the lack of dependence upon the Federal Government to “swoop in and save the day.”
The government is not a superhero. The government is not the answer to local problems, emergencies, and natural disasters. Your neighbors, friends, and families are the superheroes. That is where one looks in times of trouble, not the government!
I learned this lesson one Sunday as a child of six or seven. Salt Lake City had enjoyed a tremendous amount of snowfall that winter, and spring floods came with a vengeance. A gentleman walked into the chapel where we were meeting, asked for the congregation’s attention, and called on every able body male to man shovels and help sandbag streets to steer the floods. The Jordan River overflowed into my school, canceling classes. For weeks on end, every able man from 12 to 99 spent countless hours volunteering to work on the dikes, doing extra hours to cover the shift of a volunteer on the flood project, and I do not know how many meals were donated to feed the workers. I know Salt Lake faced significant flooding, and I know the community was stronger for the local action, rather than waiting for any State or Federal Government protection.
Iowa faced the floods, the communities held the floodwaters in check, and the communities had help from unaffected areas to steer the floods and recover after the flooding ended. New Orleans counted on the government, and the damage is still being paid for, hurting the area and causing havoc.
As a point of fact, everyone who thinks the US Government is the superhero must remember, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has the right to tell a state, No! As in, No; the resources of the Federal Government will not arrive to help you. No, the Federal Government will not be paying for this disaster. No, the failure to prepare properly is not the problem of the Federal Government. The Governor can activate the US Army National Guard, but if they do this, the State is on the hook for the full cost of mobilization, and if FEMA says No, then the State now has more budget problems than previously expected.
FEE reports that every time a politician has attempted to cut or reduce the government goodies, there has been ferocious outrage. Ever try to tell a two-year-old child No! Yet, the captivity of debt has now breached:
- $68,400 per citizen
- $183,000 per taxpayer
- The Federal Government currently holds debts on $125 Trillion in unfunded loans.
- Unfunded liabilities are what we ordinary people call check kiting.
- There is no plan to pay for these liabilities.
- There is no money to fund these liabilities.
- There is no GDP available to fund these loans.
- Want to know why you cannot obtain a reasonable interest rate on saving money, certificates of deposit (CDs), and other money-saving tools offered by banks. The National Debt!
The most troubling fact of all:
It would take the United States 713,470 years to pay down the national debt if we paid $1 per second of the year.
How many future generations have been squandered by the purchase of a minute’s mirth by the politicians, the lobbyists, the media, and the government employees who implement the politicians’ policy in the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government? A generation is 20 years. Hence, it will require 35,673.5 generations to pay off the National Debt, if we started paying right now, at $1.00 per second, or roughly $86,400 per day (31,536,000 a year approximately), every day, for the next 713,470 years. Many people will proclaim loudly that paying off that large debt is “impossible,” yet we will never know the freedom of being debt free as a nation if we do not begin.
I have heard economic postulants proclaim that debt is a good thing, but common sense tells us that being in debt is captivity, prison, to the interest, and the principal owed. Debt is never an easy taskmaster, yet the government has helped millions of Americans be saddled with untold debts through student loans, housing loans, and other obligations to fund the politician’s minute of mirth. There are smarter and more efficient ways to create wealth than through debt, and while somewhat slower, the methods are more effective and carry less risk while allowing liberty to thrive.
The sad but undeniable truth is this, a “Liberty First Culture” must acknowledge the elephant in the room, the national debt, and the harsh taskmaster’s debt and interest. During the Clinton years, the fiscal games only hurt America and the world, never balancing the budget or paying down the debt. Liberty is a priceless commodity but is easily destroyed through debt. Public debt can only be entered into by politicians; politicians feel they are immune from the taskmasters of debt and interest because they were elected. This mental disconnect from the action and the consequence responsibility is the key to changing the discussion in national, State, and local capitals on publicly funded debts. For the other sad and undeniable truth, the National Debt is just the beginning of the debt problems facing America.
Suppose you live in Illinois, California, New York, Maine, New Mexico, Washington, Oregon, Wisconsin, Michigan, West Virginia, or Virginia. In that case, your State has some of the worst problems where state debts exceed the state GDP, and those debts are killing your State. There are cities like New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, etc. that have city debts equaling or exceeding the state debts. This debt captivity is killing your wages, your future, and your city. All because a politician, somewhere in time, regardless of the political party, purchased a toy with your liberty and told you this was a good thing. Why are your roads and bridges crumbling beneath your feet and your cars; because the politicians borrowed from one hand to purchase a toy in the other hand and left unfunded loans as “IOUs.” Do you have a state pension you have been counting on to retire; guess what? There is no money in those funds either because of unfunded liabilities to purchase that minute of mirth.
A “Liberty First Culture” requires the adults in the room sanction the politician, restrict the checkbook, and demand debts begin to be reported clearly, concisely, and coherently, include all unfunded liabilities, and then start planning a method to repay the debts even if it means shrinking the size of government. Even if it means less nation-building outside America’s borders. Even if it means ending the meddling, we do in other nations to instruct them on “gender equality” or other nonsense that does nothing but waste your tax dollars and my tax dollars.
Demand a “Liberty First Culture!” in every person running for political office!
© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.