Our Generation's Legacy
The Founders of the United States of America spoke often of “posterity.” Perhaps because the average life expectancy in 1776 was 35 years and most of the Founders were well beyond that age and were looking toward their own legacy. What the Founders did in establishing the United States of America, while not entirely selfless, was in great measure to insure the Liberty, Prosperity and Success of future generations. Thomas Jefferson in 1816 in a letter to John Taylor probably said it best when he wrote, “The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”
Prudence is a virtue, Recklessness is a vice. Thomas Paine stated his view of posterity when he wrote in “Common Sense,” “When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.” This generation two hundred and thirty nine years later have shown his words to be true. Today the United States of America is over eighteen (18) trillion dollars in debt and spending as if there is no tomorrow.
To illustrate just how deeply indebted the United States is today, imagine that the 18-trillion dollar debt was on a THOUSAND (1,000) YEAR payback schedule with a modest three (3) percent interest. The monthly payment would be forty-five (45) billion dollars, (5.4 trillion annually), with a total payback over the 1000 years of five hundred forty (540) trillion dollars. Of that, five hundred and twenty two (522) trillion dollars would be in interest payments.
Quite a legacy for posterity of the next millennium. Considering that the national debt did not reach one trillion dollars until 1982, some 206 years after the founding of the United States, and has risen eighteen fold in the thirty three (33) years since, we can safely say that it is this generation that has broken the bank both monetarily and morally. Austerity is in the future whether We as a Nation admit it now or not. The current level of expenditures is not sustainable. Yet, do we hear any of the current crop of political leaders speak of this nation’s posterity? Political factions, big money interests and witless politicians have brought us to this point. Only their end can change the future.
John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife, “Posterity! you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it.” He was speaking to us when he wrote these words. We are the “Posterity” the words were meant to inspire. Yes, “virtue is not hereditary,” but it can be taught and it can be lived. I for one do not want future generations to pay the price for my generations folly.