Three weeks ago, I became a father. In many ways, that fact still doesn’t resonate beyond a mere intellectual data point. Yes, my son is here, he’s doing all the things a healthy baby does, and he’s succeeding at depriving both myself and my wife of anything resembling a normal sleep schedule, but he’s still new to our world.
The full ramifications of that fact are still being realized.
One of the first ramifications that comes from holding your son for the first time is unconditional love. And with that love, as a father, comes a desire to protect and provide the best possible future for him so that he can live up to the fullest potential with the time he is given on this planet.
My government—our government—is already standing in the way of that desire.
The United States is rapidly closing in on $22 trillion of national debt. By any reasonable measure, that number exceeds the ability of human minds to mathematically fathom. In fact, it would take roughly 697,615 years to count to 22 trillion.
For perspective, recorded human history only goes back a mere 5,000 years.
At the turn of the century, just eighteen years ago, the national debt was $5.6 trillion. By the end of President Bush’s second term, the debt had doubled to over $10 trillion. And by the end of President Obama’s second term, the debt had doubled again to $19.6 trillion.
This is real money—real debt—that is held by the public and is the greatest threat to our nation. This is debt accrued by our generation, our parents’ generation, and our grandparents’ generation. This is money spent by both political parties on hundreds of federal departments and agencies, thousands of federal programs and initiatives, and comprising dozens of policy areas.
These are tax dollars spent by Democrat and Republican politicians now making empty promises on behalf of people who have yet to be born. Or in the case of my son, someone who was just born.
In fact, on the day he was born, he immediately owed his government over $66,000. One might be forgiven for seeing this not as a birthright, fortunate to be born in a nation of liberty and boundless opportunity, but rather as a birth burden—or birth tax.
It will be close to two decades before he will even have an opportunity to begin earning a living, working toward whatever dreams he may have, and paying back money to a government that has spent on his behalf without his consent and left him with the tab.
Holding him, this is what it’s like to wonder whether the future, at its current clip, will even allow him to pursue his dreams, to live up to his fullest potential, and to have a life where a free and moral society leaves him without shackles.
Or if the future is one of insurmountable debt racked up by politicians in both parties to appease interest groups today without any thought of the ramifications for tomorrow.
This is not the way it’s supposed to be.
The reason that America’s Founders designed a system wherein the central government was constrained and limited was precisely because they understood human nature. And it is indeed only human nature for those in power (or seeking to hold power through elected office) to desire to expand their constituent’s reliance upon them for more and more facets of their lives.
After all, should Americans become completely dependent on those we put in power (and how they vote) for our livelihood, for our quality of healthcare, for our education, for our professional opportunities, for our prosperity, and for our daily existence, they will remain in power forever.
The national debt is merely a reflection of that dark—and decidedly un-American—outcome.
It’s also a reflection of the bankruptcy of the old way—the New Deal, the War on Poverty, the Great Society—and the inevitable bankruptcy of the old way disguised in new wrapping (Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, free college tuition, etc.)
All these things are just politicians spending more money we don’t have from generations yet to exist on more government programs designed to make more people dependent on them for more facets of their daily lives.
It’s as old an idea as government itself.
Liberty—the idea that we have unalienable rights given to us by our Creator that cannot be violated by man—is the truly radical and progressive idea. It’s the formula that has made America the unique exception to much of the rest of the world and recorded human history.
It’s why we’ve become so powerful and prosperous. Indeed, the great irony is that only liberty and free markets generate anything close to the magnitude of wealth for socialists to contemplate redistributing for their own ends.
But this liberty can be scary. Liberty requires letting go. It requires letting people, communities, charities, organizations, and civil society innovate and operate without the heavy-handed control of millions of government bureaucrats.
But people want to be both prosperous and safe. The allure of those promising free things is powerful. The false idea that “free” college tuition or government-provided health insurance will make their lives easier or better is but a short-term illusion.
In the long run, it’s not sustainable and the debt will destroy everything. Eventually, the money runs out. The debt burden becomes too vast, government-provided benefits are cut or go away entirely, job losses spike, businesses sink, and economic collapse occurs.
The result is poverty and misery and chaos.
America is not immune to the debt crises that have sank nations and civilizations.
Holding my son, despite the full extent of the ramifications of being a parent still not yet in place, that realization most certainly is.
The only hope is that enough of my generation comes to the same realization, too. For his sake and ours.