Generational slavery

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“Man has no property in man; neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow.” – Thomas Paine

I remember watching an episode of Oprah (though I should clarify that this is not a habit of mine) a couple of years ago, featuring a woman who had been duped by her fraudulently bankrolled husband–he seemed to have everything (on credit), but actually could not afford any of it, and when the bills came due, he disappeared, and left her holding the yacht payments.  She was bankrupt, and would have been left in a position of pseudo-slavery for the rest of her life had Oprah not stepped in–all because someone who was supposed to care about her abused her trust.

This woman’s financial situation is a microcosm of the generational explosion of debt that will soon torment the United States and much of the world.  The baby boom generation is about to retire and start collecting Social Security and Medicare benefits, the costs of which have traditionally been underestimated.  Current budgeting practices are unsustainable, which of course means they cannot be sustained. 

The problem is not the baby boom generation’s politics but its size–there are 77 million of them, but there’s still only one Oprah, and only one American labor force, which isn’t growing at near the rate of the retirement-benefit force.  The only long-term solutions are massive government cuts or massive tax increases, neither of which are very good campaign platforms.

Boomers did not have as many children as their parents did, so in order to support the boomers the way the boomers have supported the elderly, the new American worker must be prepared to pay a confiscatory income tax rate or go to jail, or leave the country.  Unfortunately, a number of the most talented individuals of my generation (perhaps even I) will choose to abandon ship and keep their finances above water.

The sad thing about this reality is that everyone knows it, and no one will stop it.  Our nation faces a fiscal tsunami of debt that is growing every year, with no end in sight.  When our leaders choose to ignore it, and when we choose to ignore that our leaders ignore it, we are committing a moral crime no less severe than (and almost exactly the same as) the slavery of old, asserting that one group of people (those working in America today) may steal the labor of another (those to work in America in the future) against their will, and for no greater reason than the chance timing of their births.

The only morally just way to handle the debt and obligations of the American government is to stop deficit spending now.  Anything that can be cut must be cut.  Start with the war, which almost everyone now agrees was a mistake to begin with.  Move on to other government boondoggles until we have trimmed them down to an approachable size.  Until we can get the budget under control, we should consider the American government fiscally and morally bankrupt.

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