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Monday, December 21st 2009

8:18 AM

The Immorality of Debt

Our National Debt is Growing to Immoral and Unsafe Proportions

by Chuck DeVore

If you are under 30, you really need to read this column and pass it on to your friends.  Your elected officials are dooming you to a new sort of bondage, a form of 21st Century slavery, if you will.


First, some background.

On October 16, 1854, Abraham Lincoln, then a former one-term Congressman, gave a three hour speech in Peoria, Illinois in which he decried the extension of slavery into the territories.  The Republican Party was barely three months old.  Lincoln warned that slavery was a “monstrous injustice” based on the raw principle of “self-interest” at odds with the “fundamental principles of civil liberty.”

Lincoln was moved to action by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, widely seen as a check on the growth of slavery in the territories.

At Peoria, Lincoln presented the economic, legal and moral case against slavery.

Today, we are faced with a similar and urgent crisis: a burgeoning debt at all levels of government that threatens our prosperity, our posterity, and our probity.

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 218-214 to raise the debt limit to $12.4 trillion.  Including all unfunded liabilities, such as Medicare and Social Security, federal obligations have reached $106 trillion.

Just the cost of paying back the borrowing from President Obama’s Stimulus plan, which I opposed, will cost you $280 per month for the rest of your life.  Imagine buying and trashing an iPod every month for the rest of time – that’s the practical impact of just one of the many planned expansions of government from Obama, Reid, Pelosi and Boxer.

Meanwhile, garden variety federal spending – spending that grew too fast under our last president as well – is vaulting even higher, with Senator Boxer recently voting for a “routine” $1.1 trillion appropriations bill that spends 12 percent more than last year.

Paying for all of this federal spending will eventually force middle-class tax rates to double.  For those in college that means you will likely have to postpone starting a family and buying a house, take longer to pay off your student loans, and have less savings for education, health care, and retirement.

This is intergenerational theft and it is immoral.

In fact, it has a certain parallel to slavery.  In effect, your leaders are stealing from your future while you, those younger than you, and those yet born, don’t have a say in the process. It is, as Lincoln said, based on pure “self-interest.” Of the mounting debt and its impact on the 65 million Americans between the ages of 16 and 30 we can invoke Lincoln by saying that your, “sacred right of self government is grossly violated by it!”

In this, California is a harbinger, once again, for the nation. Our state debt and obligations are approaching half a trillion dollars.  This has led to a plummeting credit rating that pumps up the cost of borrowing.  This, in turn, diminishes the money available to fund schools, repair roads, and provide social services.  That’s why, as a lawmaker, I have yet to vote for a general obligation bond that would be repaid by the taxpayers – our credit card has been maxed out since I arrived in Sacramento in 2004 and, no matter what the claimed urgency, I have resisted the temptation to add to debt that my 18 and 12-year-old daughters would have to repay for the next 30 years.

Our national debt also has profound and unsettling national security ramifications.  Since Mr. Obama became president, the Peoples Republic of China has quietly sold their long-term U.S. government securities and shifted their entire $985 billion government debt portfolio to securities with six-month maturities.  What might happen next spring when the Chinese simply let these securities mature and demand dollars for their debt?

Once upon a time, Americans were concerned for their children, for future generations.  They saved and invested and built.  Today, those in charge are taking the full inheritance from those whose turn at the helm is yet to come.  In a sense, allowing their raw self-interest in massively borrowing for the present to bury the future.  We are living better today at the expense of those who largely cannot vote.  Why?  Because we can.

The institution of slavery was also driven by self-interest.  One man was able to live off the sweat of another man’s brow.  Why?  Because he could.

Perhaps America has become hardened to her children.  Perhaps the generation in power today, a generation raised on self-interest, self-gratification, and self-actualization, cannot help but to steal from the future to bolster their present.

I can only hope that California’s youth will awake to the danger and reclaim their future before it is too late.

One last word.  When Lincoln spoke at Peoria, the Republican Party was in its infancy.  Today, the Republican Party is 155-years-old.  In recent years we lost our way on the principle of fiscal discipline.  Many current and former Party leaders either encouraged Big Government or idly stood by without thought of the economic, moral and future implications.  This is why the Republican Party ranks lower in many eyes than an as yet unformed “Tea Party.”  But, the debt crisis is too dire, and the stakes too high, to try to form a new party in the midst of this storm.  Instead, those of us who care about America and its future must act now to fully reclaim the Republican Party and fashion it into a real alternative to the Big Government, Big Spending, Big Borrowing and Big Taxing ways of the Democratic Party.  It is only by first being true to our principles that can we hope to successfully challenge Barbara Boxer, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and their allies.

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