Will Our Children Curse Us Tomorrow for the Debt We Give Them Today?

by Burt on February 28, 2011

George Washington, in his Farewell Address to the nation, set the standard for dealing with the national debt. Avoid, Washington said, “the accumulation of debt not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to pay.”

That says it all: avoid debt, but when a crisis requires debt be sure to pay it off quickly so that your children won’t be stuck with it. Washington displayed wisdom for his peers and compassion for those Americans yet unborn–which include us.

Until recently we followed Washington’s advice. Within forty years after Washington gave his Farewell Address, the U. S. paid off all of the Revolutionary War debt. Then, after the Civil War, the U. S. paid two-thirds of the Civil War debt off from 1866 to 1893 with 28 straight years of budget surpluses. Americans showed restraint and recognized the need to live within our means. Even after World War I, the U. S. paid one-third of our entire national debt off within twelve years after that war. We knew that integrity and leadership required financial responsibility.

Andrew Mellon, who was Secretary of Treasury during the 1920s, and the man entrusted with devising strategies for paying off the World War I debt, insisted that reducing that debt was essential if the U. S. was to maintain its world leadership. During that decade–when the U. S. had budget surpluses each year–Americans led the world in economic development by either inventing or developing air conditioning, refrigerators, radios, and talking movies. We cut federal spending, cut tax rates, and let our entrepreneurs raise the standard of living and reduce the national debt at the same time.

One point Andrew Mellon made is worth pondering. He said that the $24 billion national debt after World War I was so immense that it possibly threatened U. S. economic strength permanently. That $24 billion, which is about $300 billion in 2011 dollars, is less than one-third of the debt proposed by President Obama in one year alone. In other words, the president has proposed a deficit for 2012 that is three times larger than the entire national debt after World War I.

If George Washington and Andrew Mellon could give our nation advice today, they would say to U. S. politicians: “Spend less, increase freedom, and give to Americans unborn the same future we gave to you.”

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Will Our Children Curse Us Tomorrow for the Debt We Give Them Today? « Loan Consolidation Debt
February 28, 2011 at 11:02 am

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