Paving a $32 Trillion Road to Ruin

A lifetime ago when I served in Congress, visiting constituents would always ask what it was like to work in such a historic and scenic city as Washington, D.C. I would smile and express my sincere conviction how it was an honor to be elected, and entrusted to serve my constituents anywhere they sent me.

The simple truth was that many members of the U.S. House, myself included, did not have the time to tour the capital and see the sights. Between the aforementioned constituent meetings, committee hearings, votes, events, and speeches, the schedule did not afford the opportunity to “sightsee.” Also, as a member from a marginal/targeted district, I went home every weekend, though I would have done so regardless of the nature of my seat, because our family lived in the suburbs of Detroit. As much as I wanted to see historic D.C., I wanted to see my wife and kids even more. In the end, the only time we saw any of the storied landmarks and institutions was when we, as a family, were briefly together in town for events, such as the Congressional Baseball Game.

So, when I was in town last week to appear as a presenter in a policy seminar, I finally had some time to take an evening stroll around the capitol district to see some of the sights. It was a weeknight as dusk descended and settled into night, and there were few people around the area.  In the unaccustomed, eerie stillness, I meandered past the Capitol, which was no longer scarred by the narrative building barricades erected by the late Democrat majority. I sauntered past the steps of a quiescent U.S. Supreme Court, where an absence of protestors reinforced the point that while the light was on, there was nobody but security personnel home. I felt the misting spray of the fountain from the Library of Congress’ Jefferson building, which was erected in 1837; and past both the later additions of the Adams (1938), and Madison (1981) buildings. The Jefferson was imbued with the grandeur of an aspiring, rising republic, while the latter buildings evince the stolid, impersonal functionality of a rising, then triumphant, bureaucratic state.

Peckish, I turned down Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E., toward 8th Street and Eastern Market. As I walked, the number of people increased, either walking, dining, or dashing into the convenience stores. What also increased was the skunky smell of marijuana being openly, and casually smoked on the street. It was not long until I encountered my first panhandler. Many more would follow and, as I continued onward, I passed the homeless, some clearly suffering from mental afflictions and some already hunkered down to sleep on the street. Turning at Market Square and down 8th, I could not escape the juxtaposition so much human suffering a short walk from the seat of the marbled halls of the American government.

From the recesses of my memory a number emerged – one numbing in its concreteness, yet also inviting abstraction because of its consequential immensity. It was a number demonstrating a people’s compassionate intentions and their ultimate failure; a number serving as the ever-increasing price tag on how much it costs to pave the road to ruin with these intentions. The number: $32 trillion dollars. It is the national debt.

Shortly, the number will be over $33 trillion dollars; and the destitute, homeless, and suffering people I passed will still be there, struggling to survive in the nation’s capital, and throughout our nation. If not to help these people, where did the trillions in debt go? What kind of government can drive up such a debt and, despite its professed intentions, still leave behind the most vulnerable among us? And this is only the federal debt. This soon to be $33 trillion is over and above what the federal government has spent every year on everything, including the homeless, mentally afflicted, and the economically disadvantaged.

Then, I recalled how, within 10 years, net interest costs on the national debt alone will exceed federal expenditures for Medicaid and defense; and, over the next 30 years, these interest payments will be the biggest line item in the federal budget. This will impair and eclipse government’s ability to provide assistance to our most vulnerable citizens; and to provide for the common defense of all citizens.

I paused outside a 7-Eleven. My mind drifted northwest to the tony suburbs surrounding the Capitol Hill. Million-dollar houses and multimillion dollar mansions, home to government vendors, lobbyists, bureaucrats, media personalities and pundits – and all those who make their pile redistributing government largesse to themselves and/or others. Cynically, these are some of the people most likely to profess their noble intentions to help our disadvantaged fellow citizens.  I didn’t see many of them on 8th Street.

An awful thought wafted across my mind: the irony of a revolutionary experiment in self-government whose capitalist economy made it the most prosperous in human history could fiscally implode due to its citizens’ inability to prioritize and properly manage a budget. And, should that happen, one should shudder at the societal disorder that will ensue.

I walked through the phalanx of forsaken citizens and back to my hotel, praying for them – and our country – along the way.

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About Thaddeus G. McCotter

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003 to 2012 and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars, and a Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Show" among sundry media appearances.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

Notable Replies

  1. Luke 16:19-31

    The Rich Man and Lazarus

    19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

    22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

    25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

    27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

    29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

    30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

    31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

  2. Avatar for Alecto Alecto says:

    The Cause of Death for this Republic is the Central Bank. The Federal Reserve enables Congress together with whatever happens to occupy the Oval Office to defy citizens’ demands for constitutionally-compliant governance. De Tocqueville’s warning rings all too true for those who care to read him. Immigration by those who are morally-compromised, lacking in all self-restraint, supremely ignorant, and unethical or criminally inclined (e.g., George Soros) has wreaked havoc on society with now what amounts to enclaves of colonists peppered throughout the land. What takes up space in Congress often resembles the general public: self-absorbed, profligate, amoral and unprincipled. IOW, Democracy! However, this isn’t and never was a democracy! It’s a goddam republic, and the Ignorant classes fail to grasp that handing the vote to anyone who walks into the country was a grave error.

    Congress continues to use the Omnibus to pass more spending. It would take a miracle to force either party to pass regular order budgets. Trump promised to do that as well. He promised to veto any Omnibus bill. He lied to us and signed bills stuffed with ruinous spending, including fraud-ridden COVID pork doled out all over the world enabling the deaths of thousands. It would be a serious error in judgement to believe that man will do anything differently the second time around. I’m a republican, not a Republican. I pray for Washington, D.C. to be reduced to rubble - not one stone left unturned so that a new republic can rise from the ruins. I would prefer one that values morals, restraint, character and virtue. I’d settle for one that didn’t engage in wholesale warfare against its own citizens, with representatives who weren’t born in India, Jamaica, Somalia, or other countries believing they can somehow “become” American by taking up space in my country or that they believe a fiction: they represent the American people.

    The true deficit among Americans isn’t a fiscal or monetary one. It’s a character deficit, and one only need look at, or listen to what has been living in D.C. these many years to see the scope of the problem.

  3. Oh, the day of reckoning is coming-----soon, very soon. As the purchasing value of the dollar approaches zero, Central Bankers and Economic gurus are scrambling to construct the next great illusion that money is money. And despite the efforts of some in Congress to outlaw the digital dollar, their efforts will, ultimately, be in vain. Paper currency—soon to be worth less than the paper it is printed on, can no longer hide the truth of what it means to be a debt based economy.

    They believe that once everything is accounted in terms of ones and zeros, debt and wealth will be exactly equal. How else can one make $33 trillion of real debt and obligations appear like fake debt? Of even fake wealth?

    The United States will continue. After all, places like Cuba, Argentina, and Venezuela still exist despite the hyper-inflation of each. But quality of life will be vastly changed. The elites will care little as they will not notice much of a change in their lifestyles. Perhaps a few more tents on the streets. Perhaps a few more zombie bodies to step over.

    I predict there will be a fashion resurgence of the extreme platform shoe. Invented to protect the feet when navigating the crap running in the streets centuries ago, history not only rhymed, it repeated exactly.

  4. Avatar for Alecto Alecto says:

    The Tucker Carlson interview with Argentine presidential candidate Melei (or is it "mêlée) serves a noble purpose which Americans will, of course (!), ignore. Unless we change course, our future will look much like Argentina’s does today.

    I also believe Mitt Romney made a good point about entitlement reform in his announcement not to seek re-election. Donald Trump and other Republicans and Democrats will opt to do the wrong thing because they lack the courage to tell the American people the truth about entitlements: they are the single largest cause of the debt.

  5. I fear it will take years and years of time before a new republic can arise from the ashes of the one we currently inhabit. Twice before all of mankind entered a dark age. Each had a length of about 400 years.

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