My Name's America and I'm a Debt-a-holic
Anyone who's walked down the twelve-step path or knows someone who has, which is almost everyone in America, has heard the saying, "Until you admit you have a problem there's no hope for a cure."
We, as America, have a problem: we're addicted to debt. Now is not the time to point fingers. This isn't the time to figure out whose fault it is or when the fatal binge was that sent us over the line from recreational user to addict. Now is the time to man-up, to admit we have a problem, and take the first steps toward recovery. And I'm not talking about some over-priced, jazzed-up, Betty Ford type recovery "Program." I mean real recovery. This won't happen overnight. It won't happen without fears and tears and honest soul-searching as we look in the mirror and admit to ourselves, "We aren't controlling the debt. The debt is controlling us."
Like many survivors of the Summer of Love, and the other social scams of the 1960s, when so many of we Boomers danced in lock-step like lemmings at mass festivals, loudly proclaiming our individualism while wearing identical tie-dyed shirts and patched-up jean uniforms, I found myself one day admitting I was addicted to something. No longer could I pretend I was taking the formerly magical something for fun. I was ingesting something that was bad for my body, because if I didn't I'd get sick. My body, my mind, my soul had become addicted, and if I didn't keep flying I was going to crash. I had that realization. Step-by-step I learned to walk on my own again. Maybe you've never had that experience personally. Hold on to your treasured memories of missing that degrading rite of passage, because we as a nation are about to hit the wall.
If we don't sober up and take the cure ourselves one day soon, our friendly local debt dealers are all going to get together and pull an intervention on us, and that will not be pretty. The austerity you place upon yourself is easier to bear than the austerity placed on you by someone else. If we don't seize these last few moments of independence to stand up and say, "My name's America and I'm a debt-a-holic" before we can print enough funny money to pay off our massive debts, the countries holding that debt will cut us off and we'll have to go through withdrawals cold-turkey. Or worse yet, we may be so strung out on living beyond our means that we'll agree to anything the debt dealers demand if only they'll extend our credit for a few more days. The borrower is slave to the lender and he who pays the piper calls the tune.
It's easy to pick out all the pet projects of the opposition and say those are what caused us to go over the line. If we're truthful we will see that it wasn't just entitlements; it was providing garrison troops to maintain the peace around the world. It wasn't just tax cuts; it was also spending. Truthfulness is a required ingredient for this cure. It won't work if we just stop drinking, because dry drunks just find something else to fill the hole in their souls. It won't be good enough to kick the heroin of debt just to become strung out on the methadone of printing money. We can't just click our heels three times and say "I wish I was home" as Bernanke pumps out billions of increasingly worthless paper dollars. We can't start using our Discover Card after the shop keeper cuts up our MasterCard and our Visa.
Some fear the cure will be worse than the disease. Some are afraid to admit there's a problem, fearing there will be a stigma. We're past time to worry what the other countries down the block are going to say. We cannot hesitate because we're ashamed all the other countries will point at us on the UN playground and say behind phony smiles, "America couldn't handle their budget and now they have to live within their means."
We can't let divisions divide us. We must remember we are the UNITED States. We have to realize we cannot remain anonymous buying our debilitating debt on the corner from dealers who're laughing at us behind our backs. We cannot continue spending like drunken sailors at the first port-of-call in six months and expect that there will be anything left for the kids. We're sacrificing our children at the altar of our own desires. It's time to admit that being generous with other people's money isn't generosity, its theft. It's also time to realize that if everyone demands what they want, no one will get what they need.
Yes, this will mean hard choices. Yes, this will mean that we all must roll-up our sleeves, tighten our belts, and go to work for the long haul. But we're America. We can do this. Instead of expecting our representatives to bring home the bacon, let's ask them to balance the budget no matter how that may gore our sacred cow. Perhaps it's time we remember to ask not what our country can do for us, but ask instead what we can do for our country.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College and History for the American Public University System. http://drrobertowens.com © 2010 Robert R. Owens firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook.