So here is a deal: I borrow money from you and do not pay you back ever. Do you want to hear the details of this amazing offer? I take the money you give me without ever paying it back to you. Do we have a deal? Why not?
That is the negotiation of our “me” government. They will not even talk about paying off the national debt. On the personal level many borrow all they can and then attempt to not repay their debt.
This is the official American attitude on borrowing and paying back. It has been this way for 50 years. Citizens run up debts and then use the government to keep from having to pay back the money. We have many people in financial default by choice. Importantly, many people want our country to default the national debt rather than pay it back.
This “me” generation runs the government, a government that has been borrowing money from its citizens and from other foreign nations for 50 years. From the first loan of money to our country it has been obvious our country has had no intention of paying any of the money back. If during one year or even a couple of years we said we had too much need to repay the debt, no problem.
After 50 years of not even talking about paying back the national debt, it is obvious that there is no political will to ever pay back the national debt. At least not from the elected officials we now have in Congress.
As incredible as it seems given how much money our country has borrowed in the last 20 years, can you find any politician talking about paying the borrowed money back? Me neither. No president after Eisenhower has seriously thought about paying back the money borrowed by our country. Our leaders cannot even balance our books. So why indeed should they talk about repaying the borrowed money?
The problem is that nations are getting wise to us not intending to pay their loan money back. Our country raises money for our treasury by offering T-bills. In the last couple of years there have been fewer buyers, if any. So we, ourselves are buying our own T-bills as if another country bought them, and then saying we have more money. We are in effect writing ourselves a check and proclaiming that we now have more money.
We Americans find ourselves in a situation that would have been beyond belief to my grandparents. As a nation we Americans have spent 50 years spending more money than we have. Every year we have done so. With each passing year it seems to get easier to forget that borrowed money should be paid back.
Little by little we have pushed the national debt further and further. In the last three years this national debt has jumped upwards to unsustainable amounts. Do we think our debtors will just forget and forgive that money? Doubtful.
You might be tempted to scoff that no one would expect to borrow forever with never any money being paid back to those who loaned us, the United States, the money. But it is true. In fact, no payback is a staple of American life these days. Individually, for most of 50 years, there has been a great push for citizens to just bankrupt out of debts rather than pay them back, with no one thinking that action is wrong except those persons owed money.
In the housing market there is a big push by our government to let people who cannot or will not pay their mortgage to just keep the house and not pay the money owed on it. This attitude gets lots of cheers from everyone except the person who holds the note on the aforementioned house.
Ultimately, borrowing without paying back does not work. Everyone knows it, yet no one can stop borrowing since they do not know any other way to operate. There is one thing to do. At the mirror each day practice looking surprised. “Oh, my goodness, what happened?” It will not change what happens financially to our nation, but at least you can look surprised.
Swickard is co-host of the radio talk show News New Mexico, which airs from 6 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday on KSNM-AM 570 in Las Cruces and throughout the state through streaming. His e-mail address is email@example.com.