Posterity's Debt to Me 
{Written in December - 2009)

    As a kid cornetist in a small town drum and bugle corps I attended patriotic functions of various kinds, such as those held on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.  Consequently, I  heard a great deal about the sacrifices made by our forefathers to make the nation secure for posterity.  There usually was a line or two concerning the necessity of us, the present generation, doing what we could to insure that our posterity would continue to enjoy the blessings of our great nation. 

    Where did those old-timers get such a crazy idea?   Imagine Americans today doing much of anything on behalf of posterity!  It's the other way around.  Here in the 21st century it's "What can posterity do for us?"

    As of mid-December, 2009, the United States Congress had piled up $12 trillion of debt for posterity to pay, which will put an enormous dent in the standard of living they would otherwise have.  The cowardly Congress was expected to increase the national debt ceiling by another  $2 trillion before Christmas so that present-day Americans wouldn't have to feel the full brunt of sacrifice necessary to deal with the economic depression politicians had created.  (Yes, Virginia, inflation is a political phenomenon engineered by spendthrift politicians in Washington, aided by the banking cartel it created in 1913.)

   James Buchanan, 1987 Nobel Economics Laureate, thought it was bizarre to run up debt to pass along to children and the unborn.  But we have now fine-tuned the system of money creation so that we can live the good life and go into debt to do it, sending the bill to future generations.  To hell with belt-tightening and sacrifice.  Let the kids do all that.  They owe us.  Big time!

   Former Colorado governor Lamm put it best:  "It's the reverse of Christmas.  Adults tell the government what they want and their kids will pay for it."  

   Individually we can't throw our offspring into debt like this.  You may bequeath your children assets but you cannot make them responsible for your debts.  They may end up with little or nothing from your estate when it's settled, but creditors can't go after the kids to pay debts that aren't theirs.  Get government involved in the equation, however, and there's no end to the misery that can be loaded upon posterity, including the costs of paying for Medicare and Social Security.  

   This intergenerational compact was turned upside down when Franklin Roosevelt introduced socialism in a big way into American life.  Where once we thought we owed something to posterity, we now claim posterity owes something to us.  I won't be surprised to see the whole operation burst into a revolution one day.  Some charismatic young leader will come on the scene and attract a big following by saying, "Look.  Our forebears left us with trillions of dollars of debt to pay off.  They lived the good life and have left us with the dregs.  So, to hell with it.  We won't pay."  

    Bond holders would scream. They will say the young revolutionaries are unfairly reneging on the debt that backs the bonds.   Bond holders have no qualms, of course,  about frisking the wallets of  future generations which must make good on the debt behind the bonds.

   The economic crisis was a long time a-building.  We have had several practice runs with economic slowdowns since World War 2, but nothing like the present episode.  It started in 1940 when the federal government had to turn on the inflationary mechanism in a big way to help support war operations.  Civilians also pitched in with sacrifices of every kind.  In those days people knew you had to cough up a lot of money to fight a war.  Today's citizens are not asked to sacrifice much to support military operations all over the world.  We just borrow the necessary funds.  "The kids'll pay it off some day!"

   I'm uncomfortable with the idea my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchild owe me a living.  Come the autumn of 2010 I'll vote for the politician who dares to say "It's immoral to saddle posterity with so much debt just because we're unwilling to pay our own way.  It's time to stop inflating...balance the budget...and live within our means."  

   His campaign would fail, of course.  Voters aren't much attracted to traits such as responsible  statesmanship in their politicians.  The candidate who promises to keep spending money he doesn't have and sending the bill to posterity will win.  For now.  

Dec. 15, 2009

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