Measuring Decline in Real Time: America’s $34 Trillion National Debt

During the founding of the American Republic’s revolutionary experiment in self-government, its architects looked to antiquity for guidance.  The Athenian city-state and the Roman republic provided instructional inspiration and cautionary tales.

At their peaks, both Athens and Rome possessed many virtues, principles, and practices worthy of emulation by new generations of free peoples.  Yet both civilizations declined and fell.  Practical people, America’s founders sought to build upon the proven foundations of antiquity’s achievements while remaining cognizant of and determined to avoid the pitfalls that led to the collapse of both, notably the cultural declines that enervated their capacities to avoid their demises.

Still, they understood there was only so much one generation—even the founding one—could do to promote and protect the new republic from the fates of Athens and Rome.  As Ben Franklin cautioned Elizabeth Willing Powel and future generations at the time: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Today, it is commonly understood among the citizenry how the federal government measures everything in monetary amounts.  The extent or dearth of political “effectiveness,” “leadership,” “progress,” and “compassion”—all are “evidenced” and measured by the amount of money spent (and/or taxed and raised) for an undertaking.  The citizenry is far less aware that we can measure America’s decline in real time.

Last April, I wrote about our nation’s $31.5 trillion national debt, and the dire consequences it will wreak.  Less than a year later, our revolutionary experiment in self-government has amassed a $34 trillion national debt, and every sign points to this astronomical debt—and our cultural abasement—accelerating.

Per Breitbart:

The national debt eclipsed $34 trillion several years sooner than pre-pandemic projections.  The Congressional Budget Office’s January 2020 projections had gross federal debt eclipsing $34 trillion in fiscal year 2029…

“So far, Washington has been spending money as if we had unlimited resources,” said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at Loyola Marymount University.  “But the bottom line is there is no free lunch,” he said, “and I think the outlook is pretty grim.”

The political truism remains valid: politicians spend other people’s money to get votes.  Unless and until the citizenry decides to vote against such candidates, the spending spree will proceed.  True, many voters decry the national debt, and this causes many politicians to vow to reduce the debt.  But whether such vows are sincerely held or lip service, one stark fact remains: both Republicans and Democrats are talking about reducing by billions a national debt in the trillions.  There is no politically palatable plan anywhere to systematically eliminate the national debt altogether, as it grows all the while.  Bluntly, despite its unconscionable immensity, the national debt has yet to make life palpably painful for voters.  Ergo, the deeper question arises: Why doesn’t dumping this crushing debt burden on future generations constitute an intolerable situation for today’s generation of Americans?

It is due to the decline of American culture—again, one we can measure in real time with every dollar—that our national debt bloats.

There was a cultural shift caused by the advent of credit, wherein Americans became increasingly inured to carrying massive levels of personal debt.  Past generations of Americans raised to save money before spending it would be revulsed by the current “joke” that a “winner” is someone who dies in debt and screws their creditors.  Little wonder, then, that most Americans today don’t blanch at the fact that the national debt equates to roughly $100,000 per citizen.  Of course, if living in personal debt was no longer a cause of concern, it would be even less of a concern to citizens if the abstract Leviathan in Washington (and its smaller siblings in state capitols) carried debts, no matter how massive.

Within this mindset, one can see parallels between the cultural declines and ultimate demise of Athens and Rome and our own perilous position.  A declining culture is bent upon immediate gratification, believes itself entitled to the fruits of other people’s labors, and considers following moral, ethical, and legal precepts as being for suckers, especially if they bar the indulgence of selfish whims and desires.

In essence, it is a solipsistic sense of living solely for the present.  The devolution of courage into contentment, duty into indulgence, sacrifice into avarice—all abet the transmogrification of a virtuous republic seeking to form a more perfect union into a venal cauldron of self-entitled mendicants demanding the satiation of their sundry desires.  Or, as Franklin might have understood it: one’s pursuit of happiness has trampled one’s duty to form a more perfect union.

In this cultural decline, a cruel, patent irony exists: this generation of Americans has not been spoiled by their success; they have been spoiled by other generations of Americans’ success.

So, here we are.  But where will we be?

Again, Breitbart:

When it could turn into a more dire situation, is anyone’s guess, says Shai Akabas, director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, “but if and when that happens, it could mean very significant consequences that occur very quickly.”

“It could mean spikes in interest rates.  It could mean a recession that leads to lots more unemployment.  It could lead to another bout of inflation or weird going on with consumer prices – several of which are things that we’ve experienced just in the past few years,” he said.

Akabas said, “There is growing concern among investors and rating agencies that the trajectory we’re on is unsustainable – when that turns into a more dire situation is anyone’s guess.”

At the present pace, based upon the fates of Athens and Rome, we can hazard an educated guess.  As our culture continues to degrade, the citizenry and politicians will kick the can down the road to civilizational decline until our cancerous $34 trillion national debt consumes our revolutionary experiment in self-government.  Best not to contemplate the gory details.

Is the die cast?  Is there a chance Americans will awaken and address the existential threat of the national debt?  You can measure those odds in real time, too.

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003-2012, 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 Radio Show,” among sundry media appearances.

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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.

Notable Replies

  1. Actually, there is a plan; Donald Trump. Whether we can make his presidency happen or not remains to be seen.

  2. I’ve posted this before but feel it is always an appropriate reminder------

    Think of seconds as dollars:
    one million seconds equals 11.56 days
    one billion seconds equals 31 years
    one trillion seconds equals 31,000 years

    To pay off the national debt at the rate of one dollar per second would take 1,054,000 years to accomplish

  3. Avatar for task task says:

    Debt survives as long as the creditor does not demand that it is paid back too rapidly and as long as interest rates, asked by the creditor, on that debt, is payable and does not consume other expenses in annual budgets. Printing more money, creates additional debt, to allow legislators to buy votes, with money that they never earned, that they confiscated, which decreases the value of the money already in existence. Yes, the cost of energy, as Donald Trump recently said, drove inflation up, but printing money is even worse. It is like robbing bank savings. It is like bank fraud. It akin to counterfeiting.

    There is no gold backing our currency. The petro dollar is what enables American dollars, and instruments which reflect the dollar, to have any value. There are only promissory notes based on the faith that American businesses will produce and can then be taxed. All of America’s enemies are looking to destroy the world’s faith in the American dollar. The Bric nations see the petro dollar’s elimination as key to destroying America.

    China is a most significant problem, when it comes to fiscal sobriety, because America has allowed our enemies, and especially China, to attract our Golden Gooses because the Gooses are not regulated, as they are in America. The Federal government and blue states treat productivity the way Beijing treats their Uyghurs.

    Trump is the most significant threat to China’s prosperity and those American corporations invested in China since the Nixon Administration. Either the communists pay taxes or they pay tariffs or both. It is high time that America does the business which it was designed to do unmolested by those feeding at the top and down on the bottom and those feeding off shore. That is what the upcoming election is really all about. Ultimately, as Donald Trump would say, it is about fairness.

  4. Task, I could be wrong but am more afraid I’m right-----
    Every economic indicator I follow predicts all four wheels will fall off this year.

    1. In June, billions of commercial real estate loans come up for renewal. Even if those holding loans can find a bank willing to re-finance, the owners will be unable to pay the note. 2007 was a homeowner’s collapse. A commercial real estate collapse will be much, much worse.

    2. As you rightly state, the only thing making the dollar strong internationally is that it is the top reserve currency. As BRIC’s nations move away in greater numbers and at a faster pace, it looks to me that 2024 will be the years the dollar collapses in international markets.

    3. The FDIC can (currently) only cover 3 cents per one dollar insured of depositors’ money. If we have two major banks collapse this year, the whole house of cards will come tumbling down. Even worse is that 2007/08 ended bank bail outs. Bail Ins will be the new norm. Banks will STEAL money from small business accounts causing a small business collapse like the world has never seen.

    4. India, China, and Japan have all stopped buying our debt. We are, in essence, financing our own debt with useless paper promises. Once the public becomes full aware of this Ponzi Scheme, the end won’t be near—it will be at hand.

    Donald Trump publicly hoped the collapse comes before his inaugural----and of course, the media totally twisted his intent. He mere hoped the blame would be placed on the proper source, not him. Whether the collapse happens before or after, we both know where the media, in full throated fashion, will place the blame. Current events in Argentina are example of the reactions by an uninformed public when drastic measures become necessary to preserve a nation. Our citizens, by and large, are no more informed than the average Argentinian.

    We hit the iceberg when debt exceeded GDP. The elite have been secretly loading the lifeboats for the last eight years or so. Each have their bunkers in place and well stocked. The media is busy rearranging the deck chairs and we, poor souls, in steerage are finding locks on the gates of stairwells leading to the deck.

  5. Avatar for task task says:

    They kept it together for 2023 and they are attempting to use every gimmick they can that will do the same in 2024, not for India, China and Japan, or any other country but, instead, for the American voter who manages to continually buy and drink the Kool-Aid. They know, as we know, that the only thing that turns voters is what it costs to live in their bubble. They need the votes and a small fraction of the 10 million invaders who illegally vote can make the difference but only if the rest of of the country is cushioned on an air mattress of newly printed money percolating into their lives. It’s not about a major reset. It’s about the timing which you made clear; and so has Trump!

Continue the discussion at community.amgreatness.com

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