Will the nation’s debt finally be an effective issue?

Environmentalists invariably start their arguments by asking what kind of world we are going to leave for our children.  But I’ve always thought the greatest sin we’ve committed against our children is living far beyond our means and leaving it for them to pick up the tab.  I believed this in the 60s, when I was one of the “children” and I believe it even more today.  Yet, while the national debt has grown and grown to unimaginable numbers, it has never seemed to matter much to the voters.  We haven’t even been able to agree on a balanced budget amendment, which any reasonable person would think was a no-brainer.  The first thing you do with a spendthrift is cut up the credit cards.  And the federal government is the world champion spendthrift.

Bookworm assured me a few months ago that this time it would be different.  She told me that the cost of Obamacare and the stimulus programs, working together, were increasing the deficit and, therefore, the debt, so greatly that people who had managed to ignore the problem until now were finally concerned enough to base their vote on this issue.  Personally, I’ll believe it when I see it.

One kind of side note:  as bad as the deficit is, it is far worse than it looks.  Inflation is a boon to debtors, as it devalues the debt.  The national debt being the largest of all is devalued the most by inflation.  Thus, in a sense, you can view the true deficit as the official deficit minus the devaluation of the existing debt.  But, with inflation at historic lows, there is hardly any offset.  The full deficit is added to the debt. 

Anyway, I can’t imagine any regular reader of the Bookwormroom not being appalled by the national debt.  But do you believe the general public is finally concerned enough about the national debt to hold candidates accountable?  Or will the government just continue to ring up ever larger deficits until the whole system collapses?

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  • JKB

    We’ll just keep running up the debt till China says stop.  For all the hand wringing over the debt, it disappears when it comes to spending.  Look at the money we are sending to help Pakistan’s flood victims.  Hey, it is right but we’re broke.  Or funding the UN, do we really have the cash to keep paying people to get together for a hate fest against us.  Or the NEA, art is nice but when you’re broke, you can’t afford nice curtains much less ugly, pretentious crap some ugly, pretentious people call art.
    Now I know, someone is going to say that those aren’t that much money but cutting out just one or two lattes a week really adds up.  In fact, it is the first thing to do when you’re trying to dig yourself out.
    This reminds me of a story my aunt tells me.  When she and her husband were just starting out with their first child right after WWII, her brother-in-law and his wife moved in with them due to the hard times.  Five people living in 3 rooms.  The in-laws always needing money which my aunt scrimped to find from her job.  The in-laws not working.  Well, right up to the day the sister-in-law showed up with a new fur coat.  She deserved it.  Then came the riot act, my aunt and her husband would buy groceries to help them out but they had to move out and not a dime in cash was to go their way.  Her husband, the brother, got the message or was just afraid, I’m not sure.
    Sadly, that is Americans, always short, needing a hand out from the productive people, but then show up with a new fur coat or iPod or something that the working people can’t afford because they are giving all their cash to the others.  I say giving in the way you give your wallet to the guy with the gun.

  • stanley

    No, I do not believe the general public will hold candidates accountable. I do not think the general public understands the enormity of the problem so cannot fathom a solution. However, I am hopeful that the ire of enough capable people has been aroused to cause the proper events to happen. We do not need the general public. We only need enough to counteract the people who have directed us to this situation, who again are not the general public. I have seen a number estimating that 20% are driving the economic and political agenda. Therefore 20% waging war against this other 20% should do it. It will be a battle for the minds of the other 60%, who will then follow the winners. Since there will be much pain required to “fix” the situation I think a voluntary fix has odds against. But change will come involuntarily in any case as we will have to work our way through the cycle.

  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com David Foster

    Part of the problem is that there are now so many people who don’t pay any federal income tax, and hence tend to assume it’s not their problem..and, giving the increasing assumptions about class rigidity, not their kids’ problem, either.
    This is wrong, of course…*everyone* pays for these expenditures, through corporate income taxes passed on in prices, in inflation, and directly in state & local taxes. Republicans need to do a better job of explaining why these deficits matter in much more tangible terms. Talking about stacks of ten-dollar bills as high as the moon or whatever doesn’t cut it.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    A Constitution convention is needed for a balanced budget amendment, DQ. Are you calling for a convention or are you going to wait on something else to happen first.

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com Don Quixote

    I’d love a constitutional convention and I’m not holding my breath waiting for something else.  But, in truth, I’m not holding my breath waiting for a constitutional convention, either.  I’m pretty discouraged over the fact that the American public allowed the national debt to happen in the first place and I’m not hopeful that we’ll come to our senses any time soon.

  • Charles Martel

    David Foster makes a good point that almost half of the U.S. population pays no federal tax, so the matter of massive debt really doesn’t concern them. It’s simply a vast abstraction.

    As the perks-and-free-money spigot goes from rushing flow to reluctant drip, their reaction is not likely to be, “Gee, how did we let the criminals in government run out of other people’s money?” It will probably be, “Gee, why aren’t our caretakers sticking their hands further up the golden goose’s cloaca?”

    So, no, I doubt the argument that debt kills is going to resonate with a substantial part of the population.

  • Jose

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    Most Americans can’t manage their own finances, so I have no expectation that they have any interest in, much less comprehension of, excessive government spending.

    I have a friend who is scraping by, paycheck to paycheck, on $100 k a year in a low cost of living area. He can’t afford to invest 3% of his salary to get the company match in the 401k plan – free money. I suspect he is typical. Most people I know either live lavishly, or profess a dislike of money, if they don’t have any.
    I believe things will continue as they are, until our government can no longer sell bonds. Then the only way out, as DQ stated, will be through massive inflation. I have no idea what will happen, but it will be interesting. I only hope my savings and investments survive.

  • Friend of USA

    Look at what happened in Greece.
    People rioted when they were told they would have to pay their taxes !!!
    Americans are a bit more “sensible” than Greeks, but human nature being what it is I am somewhat pessimistic.
    Just like spending with a credit card brings immediate gratification …but the average person is too dumb to realize they are creating years of misery for themselves in painful monthly payments.
    I think the average voter is too dumb to understand the implication of a government creating a debt that means years of misery.
    There should be a test before voting, if you do not know anything about the issues then you should not be allowed to vote.
    Would you let the hospital janitor vote on what type of surgery you need ?

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    “Would you let the hospital janitor vote on what type of surgery you need ?”
    A poor janitor can be convinced by reasonable arguments. Doctors and other people of the Establishment, have been bribed to shut the F up and do what they are told. Reasonable arguments won’t work on em given government tyranny.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Close to 33 states are attempting to circumvent the healthcare decree from DC.
    All you neeid s a few more states and they can call a Constitutional Convention for the purposes of amending the US Constitution. For as much as the Left likes to claim they are for “progress”, their immediate response is “imagine how much change the Constitution would go through if we called for an amendment”.
    They’re lying to you. They’re already changing the Constitution by bypassing it and making it irreverent. If you don’t use the nuclear option now, you won’t have that option later on.

  • jj

    I don’t believe the “general public” can locate its ass with both hands.  Election results keep reaffirming that.
    Worry about something as abstruse as the national debt?  Forget it.

  • Danny Lemieux

    I am pessimistic. As the previous posters have noted, much of this depends upon who’s ox gets gored. I believe people in general believe that government is too big and budgets need to be cut. However, four of the biggest looming public obligations are:
    a) A bankrupt FIDC that ensures bank savings deposits.
    b) The Fed’s inevitable and unavoidable commitment to bailing out bankrupt public and private pension systems (starting with Illinois and California).
    c) Skyrocketing social security commitments.
    d) Skyrocketing Medicare /Obamacare commitments.
    Throw in an inevitable war (Obama’s foreign policy has left a power vacuum waiting to be filled), and we are in a world of financial hurt.
    So, while i think that the American populace is alert to the fact that we are in big trouble, I am not sure that they are ready to accept the inevitable financial haircuts to their social security, medical care and pensions…certainly not when the average retirement savings of people my age is about $14,000 or so (if I recall correctly) and we are facing a demographic tsunami of boomer retirements in coming years.

  • Indigo Red

    A Constitutional Convention is absolutely NOT necessary to enact a balanced budget amendment which would be just another amendment. There has never been a CC to pass any amendment, not citizenship, not prohibition nor repeal, not restriction of presidential terms, not for voting age, not for anything. The Constitution spells out four paths for an amendment:
    Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state conventions (never used)
    Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state legislatures (never used)
    Proposal by Congress, ratification by state conventions (used once)
    Proposal by Congress, ratification by state legislatures (used all other times).

    A Constitutional Convention has not been tried since the current Constitution was written and ratified. And for good reason, too – there are no limits on what can be done. We saw what can happen the last time we had a CC – the entire governmental system was overturned and another put in its place. That was not the charge of the convention delegates; theirs was only to modify the Articles of Confederation. Instead, we got a whole new governmental system never  before attempted in human history. I’ll wager the results of a future Constitutional Convention will be no where near as wise as the first. “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes…,” Thomas Jefferson told us and the world. Do we really want to chance our future on a single roll of the dice? Because the next Compact may not allow for change. Or liberty, for that matter.

  • Indigo Red

    [1.] “…do you believe the general public is finally concerned enough about the national debt to hold candidates accountable? [2] Or will the government just continue to ring up ever larger deficits until the whole system collapses?”

    [1] Yes and no. The electorate will expect everyone elses representatives to be held to account, but not mine because mine is fine upstanding American patriot.
    [2] Yes. Even if the government stopped spending right now, the interest is approaching parity with the principle and will soon exceed to original principle ballance. Recently, and economist said we would have to increase taxes by 14% every year forever just to keep pace with the increasing debt if only the interest is added to the dept with no additional spending.

    Unfortunately, the whole system will probably collapse no matter what is done. We no longer have our core industries and skills needed to actually make stuff in quantities necessary to compete. We can get them back, of course, but that will take time, probably more time than we have available. In the meantime, the Third World hopscotches past us, the 19th and 20th centuries right into a 21st and 22nd century advantage. Additionally, we are being attacked by forces and ideologies, foreign and domestic, that are antithetical to our way of life and business. And we are losing.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    That’s pretty funny, Indigo. The Congress calling for a Constitutional convention. Why would masters of a plantation call for a convention to let the slaves rewrite the rules?
    The answer to massive progressive advancements isn’t “it’s broken, so let’s not worry about fixing it cause we fear it might get broken more”.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    On the issue of amending the Constitution, while there are several methods outlined in the US Constitution to do so, not all of them are available given the current enemy. People should be more concerned about what’s available, rather than worrying over the ramifications of success. Amending the Constitution will spell the end game of the Left, in that loopholes can no longer by exploited by them as they have.

  • suek

    Contemplating a total breakdown of the system.  I’m having a hard time imagining such a thing.  I understand inflation.  I understand unemployment.  I understand stocking up because of unavailability of necessities…but I really can’t comprehend it.  Not really.

  • Indigo Red

    What’s even funnier, Ymarsakar, is that ” Congress calling for a Constitutional convention” was not mentioned in anything written above, unless I’m missing something. And Congress can not by itself call a Constitutional Convention.

    Article V provides the only Constitutional method for calling for a CC. Two-thirds of the states—34 out of 50 state legislatures—must pass an application calling for a Convention. If the required portion of states pass such a resolution, Congress is required to call a Convention during which the states delegates can propose any and all amendments to the Constitution they wish, even amendments to end the current Constitution and Republican form of government.

    I can’t really comprehend a total breakdown either, suek. Way too far beyond my experience and pay grade.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Suek and Indigo Red…think “Argentina”, once one of the richest countries in the world.

  • Charles Martel

    Good call, Danny. I lerarned in school that at the turn of the 20th century the expression “Rich as an Argentine” was in currency all over Europe and the Americas. How sad to think that we are destined to join that country as a nation that pissed away its wealth and its future so that the Evita Pelosis and Juan Kerrys could buy a few more votes.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    <B>What’s even funnier, Ymarsakar, is that ” Congress calling for a Constitutional convention” was not mentioned in anything written above, unless I’m missing something. And Congress can not by itself call a Constitutional Convention.</b>
    So you’re betting on Congress amending the Constitution.
    There are no other options on the table. You think you will win, if Congress decides to amend the Constitution? More likely it’ll all be over at that point.
    Not exactly a victory scenario you paint, Indigo.
    A Constitutional Convention is absolutely NOT necessary to enact a balanced budget amendment which would be just another amendment.
    You obviously must think you can get a balanced budget amendment through Congress. A shortsighted view. Even if the Republicans win elections, that doesn’t mean a damn thing, really at this scale. It is the only option at present and for the forseeable future. You have no other options on the table. You cannot challenge necessity simply with desires.

  • suek

    Guess it’s a good thing this blog is on my list(link below)!!  Although I haven’t gone back to the beginning.  Guess I should…!  (You knew _someone_ had to be blogging about it, didn’t you??)


  • Indigo Red

    Ymarsakar, a great deal more is being read into my comments than is actually there. I’m not argueing for a balanced budget amendmant at all. In fact, I think a  balanced budget with or without an amendment is a utopian pipedream. I was merely responding to comments that were in error.

    Fact – a Constitutional Convention is not needed to amend the Constitution.
    Fact – Congress does not initiate the Constitutional Convenvention process, the States do.
    Fact – 24 States have an initiative process allowing citizens to direct the State gov’ts to demand a CC from the feds.
    Fact – the people reserve the right to extra-legal change – always have, always will.

    An assumption is being made here that Congress and its members are also the members of a CC. That is not necessarily so. The first CC was not populated by the confederation congress, but by appointed delegates from the States, not all of whom were officers in their respective State houses. The makeup of any CC is undefined until the time a CC is actually decided upon.

    Again, I’m not argueing for or against a  balanced budget amendment or any other amendments. Neither am I argueing for or against a Constitutional Convention, only that a CC is a dangerous thing as the result may not be waht was oroginally envisaged.