Whose Debt?

Republicans keep telling us the budget deficit is bad for future generations who will be saddled with the debt.  According to them, our national debt was caused by Democrats’ profligate spending on things like Head Start, infant nutrition programs, food stamps, Social Security, health care, education and infrastructure.  Their solution is to cut everything people actually need.  But they don’t think we spend enough on defense which reminds me of the bumper sticker suggesting the Pentagon have a bake sale.

So how much is the national debt really costing us?  Business Insider’s Joe Wiesenthal says interest on the national debt divided equally among every man, woman and child came to $700 a head in 2011, which is actually less than it cost us in the 90s because of low interest rates.

Major news sources including the Wall St. Journal and ABC News  tell us that the national debt (we’re talking about the principal here)  is currently equal to $45,000 per capita.  That debt includes money we owe ourselves to repay the Social Security Trust Fund – the not-locked box that Congress continually raids to pay for other things that are not Social Security. (Iraq and Afghanistan come to mind.)

So let’s turn our attention to personal debt – the money you have to repay all by your lonesome if you don’t want debt collectors to make your life a living hell.   Families with at least one credit card owe an average of $15,950 in credit card debt and a study by the Pew Research Center  indicates that 19% of all households are also burdened by student loan debt.  The average student debt is over $26,000 and obviously impacts the young (aka future generation) disproportionately.

So what’s worse, your personal $41,950 debt (assuming you have a credit card and a student loan) or your $45,000 national debt?  Personally I’d take the national debt.  Why?  Because I share it with 312 million people (and growing), and because people who have more money than I do will pay more taxes and therefore a greater share of the debt.   At least that’s how it used to work before the GOP convinced a lot of dopes that less is more when it comes to taxes on the rich.

Nobody is going to turn you down for a car loan or a mortgage because of the size of your share of the national debt, but they will if you’re buried in personal debt.  Which means that fewer cars and houses will be sold, which means that fewer jobs will be created, which means that the economy will continue to suck.

But student loans and maxed out credit cards won’t be the only thing holding us down.  Prior to the New Deal, old people who had no money and no family to take them in, actually lived in County “poor houses.”  So, by all means, cut Social Security benefits.   Hope you’ve got room for Grama and Grampa in your studio apartment.

But Gram and Gramps are living a lot longer, so shouldn’t they keep working until they’re 70 (or 90)?  Sure, why not – if they still have all their marbles and don’t have to do any heavy lifting that causes their brittle bones to snap like last year’s Thanksgiving wishbone.

But wait.  Isn’t there a job shortage?  Aren’t recent college graduates begging for well-paying jobs?  Jobs they’ll need to pay back their loans?  Don’t we want old people to retire so young people can get jobs?  If Boomers can’t retire because their 401Ks tanked and their Social Security is a pittance, isn’t that bad for future generations?

Saddle up.

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