Debt is bad, unless you need a heart transplant and you are not Rush Limbaugh who can pay cash from his $240 million paycheck. Debt is good, when you need a car to get to that new job the next county over, or a computer, or a house…Debt is war, and the nation was founded on debt. Debt is killing America as Millenials, drowning in unpayable student loan debt to pay for impossibly expensive educations necessary to have an employer even consider you for lower and lower paying jobs may never afford houses-a cornerstone of our economic health. America was built on debt. American wealth is built on debt. American politics is indebted to wealth in defending and enforcing a system of debt. Americans do not understand debt. Debt is good. Debt is bad.

The Heritage Foundation and Koch Brother-funded Illinois Policy Institute will not explain debt to you. They represent interests that profit immensely off of institutionalized debt. Gross National Debt, which stands at $19 trillion and change, has become the economic boogeyman. It is used to pummel Barack Obama and his policies. The numbers are so large as to be abstract, and can make an individual feel very small. That is a useful perspective. You are one in 318 million. Your 4 or 6 or 8 or 10 thousand Dollars in credit card debt is not even a drop in the bucket to the national $960 billion in credit card debt. It is a molecule in that drop. That breaks down to, on average, $3018 for every man, woman child and infant. 398579-127630304773689-Eric-Coffin_origin

Now, some perspective. If you listen to the Heritage Foundation’s Steve Moore, he’ll say that all Americans are burdened with their share of our national $19 trillion debt to the tune of about $59,700. However, for that amount a child born today gets drivable roads, nominally clean water(as long as they avoid Flint Michigan) safe food, a top notch medical system to put you into deeper debt, safe bridges, fire, police, a military, national parks and some rudimentary form of representational government. Mom and dad’s combined average $6036 in personal credit card debt as well as the child’s birthright of $3018 in debt has already been spent on crap at Banana Republic, that vacation to Sandals, uncountable bar tabs, Uber rides and god knows what else.

Still concerned about that per capita national debt? Chicagoans who just got whacked with two major property increases this year know exactly what you mean. Property tax increases for Chicago property owners topped $700 million. Coincidentally the tab for unchecked police violations of civil liberties clocked in at around $680 million, paid for by taxpayers. Had those public employees not been allowed to run amok, or be the shock troops for executive and mayoral abuse of power a city wide bake sale might have sufficed to close the fiscal gap. Our national per capita debt is no different. But, it is what affects you that makes the difference, right?

One last bit of perspective before moving on. Compared to the national output, that is the value of the national economy, the debt to value ratio is about the same as it always was. Sorry, doom sayers, but that’s the truth. America started in debt and it remains in debt. In fact, since trust but verify is always an aspect of any human economic system, debt is one way of keeping your enemies closer, and business partners really close!.

So back to American debt. The country was founded on debt. American debt paid for the American Revolution. Famously, John Adams went begging to the Netherlands, and Franklin to France for credit to jump start our fledgling nation to life. The per capita debt burden exploded as a result of the Civil War, matched only by the Second World War. It didn’t seem to be a national crisis while we were fighting the Axis powers. That said, the unnecessary war in Iraq cost the nation, conservatively, $4.4 trillion, for no demonstrable gain, kind of like Chicago mayors luxuriating in abusing protesters knowing taxpayers will foot the bill. Take that off the top of the current $19 trillion and Steve Moore is just another disgruntled CPA. That’s about $14.5 trillion in debt as opposed to $19, if you’re doing the math. By the way, that doesn’t include the War on ISIS, currently topping the $1 trillion mark, conservatively.  calculated from an average $17,600 per hour flying time for US warplanes, times 16,000 sorties, plus the average cost of ordiance-5000 bombs with an average price tag of $2k each.

Here is where things get blunt and honest. You might want to turn away the kids. Actually, they should hear this, so never mind. Like the bar tabs, weekly dinners out-cuz you’re a foodie-that sweater that makes you look skinny and all the other stuff on your credit card(s), at this point it is all just shit. It’s just garbage. Want to get out of that debt (If you’re wealthy, bankruptcy and strategic withdrawal), first, stop making the same dumb mistakes of the past. If you’re a country, maybe fix the system so defense contractors can’t game it to start wars to sell the nation guns and bombs it can’t afford. Second, make sure you have a means of paying it off. For you that means holding onto that job(which hopefully won’t be sent overseas) so you have the financial means of paying off the debt.  If you are a country, don’t start stupid ass wars and don’t let the greedy run the books

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5 thoughts on “American Debt

      1. The debt crisis that our countries face. The roots, if you give it a good thought, are in our consumerist behaviours and wars. Also, people have a perception that the developed world faces no such issue as a national debt issue. You have helped me to be confident in the statements about America’s debt issues which I often make in my classes as a student trying to test my understanding.

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      2. Debt is a complex issue, a mix of culture, history, fundamental aspects of business and interpersonal relationships and religion, as well as abuse by those who understand and can utilize the economy as an abstract concept rather than a monolithic feature. The wealthy and powerful have the capacity to proactively manipulate the abstract to their advantate. Sitting at the top of the pyramid they maintain that perspective while for the rest of us at or closer to the bottom the cost of a gallon of milk is monolithic. Thanks for the thoughts.

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