Finishing up this column, I’m assuming there was another Republican debate this past week. The past debates have drawn a large television audience, probably due to the presence of Donald Trump. Whether he showed up Thursday night, I’m sure Trump was the media focus. On the other hand, the Democrats have also had a couple of debates. They have scheduled them on weekends, apparently hoping that not many people would watch.
It seems like most of the presidential debates, especially the Republicans, have concentrated on foreign affairs, like terrorism and immigration. The December Republican debate centered on the foreign threats, primarily ISIS, to the United States. According to the candidates, ISIS and those other foreign countries and organizations are the biggest threat to our existence. You hear the Democratic candidates saying much the same thing. And the media joins the chorus, constantly issuing warnings about the threat to us by these foreign entities.
But that same night in December, there was another threat to all of us taking place, which may have a more negative effect on each of us than any Islamic radical. It was from our Congress in Washington. That night Congress was putting the finishing touches on a budget deal, with all its government programs and tax breaks. The new budget will add an estimated two trillion dollars to our national debt, which is now already over $19 trillion dollars.
You hardly ever hear any politician talking about the U.S. debt anymore. Maybe it’s because they know that we, the voters, don’t want to hear about it. We like our government programs and tax breaks. It’s easy for us to agree with eliminating and doing away with ISIS. But there’s not many votes in talking about eliminating that favorite government program or doing away with that popular tax break. Maybe we need to listen to some voices from the past.
“I will not be a party to stealing money from one group of citizens to give to another group of citizens; no matter what the need or apparent justification.” That quote was from President Grover Cleveland, who was U.S. President during the last decade of the 1800’s. It sounds heartless and without compassion to today’s Americans, who are so used to “entitlements.” It sounds especially harsh when you realize that he made the statement in reference to government helping an orphanage in New York City during a severe financial crisis. But he explained himself when he added, “Once the coffers of the federal government are open to the public, there will be no shutting them again.” That is why Congress has been so unwilling to deal with the out of control government spending. It’s hard to slow down that flow of money and benefits to voting citizens once they start. The voters won’t like it and may decide to put those elected officials out of a job. Of course, now we are primarily stealing, not from one group of citizens to another, but from the next generation.
Another famous politician once wrote, “A democracy is not a form of government to survive. For it will only succeed until its citizens discover they can vote themselves money from the treasury, then they will bankrupt it.” By the way, that politician was Karl Marx, who wrote The Communist Manifesto and is considered the father of socialism.
John Adams was the second President of the United States. Being stuck between Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Adams tends to be overlooked. But he was a patriot and instrumental in the founding of this country. While a firm believer in our democratic form of government, he warned, “Remember, that democracy never lasts long. It wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”
And that is the ultimate danger of runaway U.S. government debt. As my friend, Dale Denning said to me during the financial crisis of 2009, with all the government bailouts, “It would be rough if GM (General Motors) went bankrupt. But we would survive. I’m not sure if we would survive if the U.S. government went bankrupt.”
ISIS and Islamic terrorism are a real, obvious threat to the United States. It may be difficult, but we can deal with it. The nature of the threat, and how to handle it, is a subject for the presidential candidates to debate. But, the out of control national debt is another threat that, in the long run, will have a much more negative effect on our country. We may find out that the greatest problem we, as a country, will face is not the ISIS wolf at the door, but the debt termites in the floor.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org