Americans certainly have a love-hate relationship with debt. As Congress kicked off another game of Debt Ceiling Chicken, I thought about how “buy now, pay later” is in our national DNA. Over the course of my life, credit cards have become a way of life while consumer loans have become a $ 37 billion per year industry.
Our national debt now stands at $ 28 trillion while personal IOUs (credit cards, mortgages, student loans, etc.) stand at around $ 90,000 per person according to the Experian credit bureau. There are certainly times when borrowing is prudent, but you need to be able to make payments and avoid the interest charges that ultimately cost you more for what you buy.
Most of us understand the wisdom of living within our means, and more Americans in general are saving their duplicates, but many are struggling to get started. It’s just too overwhelmingly easy to finance a car, a house, an education, and other things that you can save money for with long-term thinking and self-discipline. But sticking to a budget and sticking to it is embraced with as much enthusiasm as weight loss diets.
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My wife and I are always trying to convince our children to invest a good chunk of what they earn now so that they have a healthy nest egg later in life. They don’t want to give up their treats and don’t see the point in saving because they think the world will end before they are our age. I tell them that people have feared “The end is near” for centuries. One day they will be right, but this old world has a bad way of life in spite of itself.
Speaking of Armageddon, Congress reminds me of a couple on the verge of a bitter divorce arguing over how their money is spent. A spouse wants one thing. The other wants something different. Family members demand other things. Meanwhile, the roof is leaking and the lights have to stay on, but one spouse threatens to take over the house so they can do whatever they want and make the other look bad.
Our national debt ceiling is a self-imposed concept like a budget. We’ve had it since 1917, but refusing to increase it to keep the government running has become a tactic on either side to derail the other’s initiatives. Of course, concerns about the budget deficit depend on who controls spending and income (taxes). Our last surplus was in 2001.
Politicians always make the price of whatever the other party wants look creepy, like $ 3.5 trillion is out of YOUR pocket RIGHT NOW. The current infrastructure proposals are for the next 10 years. That’s $ 350 billion a year, or about 1.2 percent of the $ 287 trillion in gross domestic product growth that the Congressional Budget Office projects for 2022-31.
Most Americans want to modernize roads, bridges and public transportation, electricity and sewer systems, but these things are tied to proposals for a social safety net and climate change mitigation. As usual, the real need is in partisan conflict, and there is no gratuity, but we can afford necessities. The key is for our money.
For example, our military budget (roughly $ 826 billion per year from 2000 to 2019) is under limited review, so we get $ 46 billion spent on canceled and ineffective weapon systems. But expensive waste can be found everywhere.
I wish my wife had been responsible for spending in Washington. Her dedication to hunting for bargains, not spending more than necessary, and saving for a rainy day has left our family with everything we need and no debt. Unfortunately, Washington’s approach is a different, more controversial animal.
With members of Congress looking to get as much money as possible for their donors and constituents or simply block the opposing side, the American house is still at risk of collapsing as its fiscal order becomes more and more effective. more difficult.
Write columnist John Rolfe at [email protected] or visit his website Celestialchuckle.com