If you’re one of the lucky ones in these economically depressed times, you have a job that comes with a steady paycheck. (Nine percent of Americans or more have not been so lucky for twenty straight months.)
But even for the fortunate gainfully employed among us, the economic situation is more dire than many are remotely aware.
Take your yearly pay. Subtract your local, state, and federal tax burdens. Then deduct the amount you are paying to service your personal debt, including mortgages, credit cards, business or student loans, etc.
For a lot of Americans, after such a cruel calculus, their yearly income looks a lot smaller — perhaps barely adequate — even if one is pulling down a nominally “good” salary.
But the situation is even more alarming still: for the first time, our national debt has surpassed $14 trillion — a dubious and shameful record.
Even more astonishing, the past two presidents, one from each major political party, are responsible for half of that monstrous sum. As an Associated Press story noted,
about half of today’s national debt was run up in the past six years. It soared from $7.6 trillion in January 2005 as President George W. Bush began his second term to $10.6 trillion the day President Obama was inaugurated and to $14.02 trillion now.
In this era of hyper-partisanship, it is comforting to know that there is one thing both parties have agreed upon — spending the nation into insolvency.
It is clear that $14 trillion is an amount so astronomical as to be literally incomprehensible — beyond the ken of our formidable, if recently evolved, homo sapiens mind.
Unfortunately, that does not stop us from racking up such sums. Doubtless, the two phenomena are somehow related.
So deduct another $45,300 from your salary. That is what the national debt amounts to for every man, woman, and child in America. For a family of four with two small children and both parents working, that’s an additional $181,200 in family debt.
Few such families reckon this additional burden when they allocate their already-stretched resources. Yet reckon it they should, for national governments — despite our legal fictions to the contrary — are not autonomous entities. The money they spend and promise has in the end but one fount — the wallets and purses of individuals and families.
The government’s debt is our debt, and when our creditors at last demand their due, that heretofore unseen $45,300 per person in debt will suddenly surge to the surface and sweep all before it in a terrible deluge. Not one person in America will be unaffected. The rich will become less rich; the middle class will become, for all intents and purposes, poor; and the poor will see any hope they may have had of economic advancement disappear.
The deluge will come as a surprise to many. After all, cheap money and unlimited credit has given us the illusion of prosperity for all too long.
But ours is an inexcusable ignorance. For decades, the government has been spending our wealth — first everything we made, then everything we are ever going to make, and now everything our children and their children will ever make. How future generations will judge us for the theft of their prosperity is not hard to guess.
America is not alone in this fiscally debased condition, of course. The rot is deep and widespread; it is civilizational. The entitlement promises made by national and local governments of the West are so vast that they can never be kept. When people finally and fully realize this, the capitals of the world will shake with the rage of masses which have come to expect everything, and will accept nothing less.
Indeed, it is already happening. The recent unrest in Greece, France, Britain, and elsewhere adumbrate our future rather nicely.
The reckoning is coming. It will be swift, and it will be terrible, and we will have only ourselves to blame.