Cal Thomas – Empire-toppling debt

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Thursday, July 23rd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Next up, commentator Cal Thomas reflects on our nation’s exploding debt.

CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: I am not in the habit of quoting leftist Noam Chomsky, but this line seems relevant when one considers our growing national debt—quote—”When you trap people in a system of debt, they can’t afford the time to think.” End quote. 

Perhaps the middle of a pandemic—with job losses and threats of even higher unemployment—is not the time to mention the national debt. Or, perhaps it is.

Pandemic or not, one of the common characteristics of the fall of past empires and superpowers is massive national debt. Ours is currently at $26.5 trillion and growing by the second. Americans should regularly consult the real-time debt clock and ponder the future. 

The interest on the debt grows daily. It is higher than the nation’s gross domestic product for the first time since World War II. The pandemic has exacerbated the trend, and cutting spending is not even a topic of conversation on the virtual campaign trail. 

Just one year ago, when the debt was “only” $22 trillion, I wrote a column about what the Founders thought of debt. Their words are worth repeating:

Thomas Jefferson said: “We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.” Alexander Hamilton added: “Nothing can more affect national prosperity than a constant and systematic attention to extinguish the present debt and to avoid as much as possibl(e) the incurring of any new debt.”

We have this from George Washington: “Avoid occasions of expense … and avoid likewise the accumulation of debt not only by shunning occasions of expense but by vigorous exertions to discharge the debts, not throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.”

Finally, here’s our second president, John Adams: “The consequences arising from the continual accumulation of public debts in other countries ought to admonish us to be careful to prevent their growth in our own.”

Our modern leaders are not listening.

Citizens Against Government Waste has just published its annual “Pig Book,” which details some of the government’s wasteful spending—including continued use of earmarks. The booklet notes that in January the Congressional Budget Office said the federal government was on pace to add $12.4 trillion to the national debt—bringing it to $36.2 trillion. 

I say “was” because that estimate came before COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdown. The Pig Book cites one estimate that the pandemic “will add $8 trillion to CBO’s fiscal year 2030 projection, for a total of $44.2 trillion.”

If Congress continues to spend money as if there is no tomorrow, there may not be a tomorrow. America will drown in debt with no one to rescue us from our folly.

I’m Cal Thomas.

The U.S. Capitol is seen at sunrise in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

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