Monday, September 10, 2012

The Biggest Threat to National Security is our Debt

Last week we passed an historic point in U.S. history.  We're now more than 16 trillion dollars in debt.  As we dig ourselves deeper into the hole of debt, I thought it would be appropriate for a reminder about debt and national security.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2011 – Debt is the biggest threat to U.S. national security, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during remarks to business executives today.

“I’ve said many times that I believe the single, biggest threat to our national security is our debt, so I also believe we have every responsibility to help eliminate that threat,” he said. “We must, and will, do our part.”
Source here.

Debt isn't just a threat to our security, though.  I firmly believe it's immoral to incur debt to be passed to future generations.  Thomas Jefferson agreed.

On contracting debt he said, "We may consider each generation as a distinct nation, with a right, by the will of its majority, to bind themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation, more than the inhabitants of another country."  (More to the discussion in his letter here.)

Jefferson had significantly more to say on the subject, and I found a collection of his quotations in a post at the very progressive Current TV.
The National Debt

"I sincerely believe... that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity under the name of funding is but swindling futurity on a large scale." --Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, 1816. ME 15:23

"I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government; I mean an additional article taking from the Federal Government the power of borrowing. I now deny their power of making paper money or anything else a legal tender. I know that to pay all proper expenses within the year would, in case of war, be hard on us. But not so hard as ten wars instead of one. For wars could be reduced in that proportion; besides that the State governments would be free to lend their credit in borrowing quotas." --Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, 1798. ME 10:64

The Limits on Contracting Debt

"The term of redemption must be moderate, and at any rate within the limits of [the government's] rightful powers. But what limits, it will be asked, does this prescribe to their powers? What is to hinder them from creating a perpetual debt? The laws of nature, I answer. The earth belongs to the living, not to the dead. The will and the power of man expire with his life, by nature's law." --Thomas Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes, 1813. ME 13:169

"Then I say, the earth belongs to each of these generations during its course, fully and in its own right. The second generation receives it clear of the debts and incumbrances of the first, the third of the second, and so on. For if the first could charge it with a debt, then the earth would belong to the dead and not to the living generation. Then, no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:455, Papers 15:393

"The conclusion then, is, that neither the representatives of a nation, nor the whole nation itself assembled, can validly engage debts beyond what they may pay in their own time." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:457, Papers 15:398n

"[The natural right to be free of the debts of a previous generation is] a salutary curb on the spirit of war and indebtment, which, since the modern theory of the perpetuation of debt, has drenched the earth with blood, and crushed its inhabitants under burdens ever accumulating." --Thomas Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes, 1813. ME 13:272

Saddling Posterity with Debt

"It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world." --Thomas Jefferson to A. L. C. Destutt de Tracy, 1820. FE 10:175
If you go to Current, you'll not the comments about these quotations being out of step with the times.  That's the same argument they use for the Constitution.  Naturally, the indecency of recklessly contracting debt for someone else's children to pay off has nothing to do with the times in which we live.  In fact, one would expect modern people today to have more respect for others, especially future generations.

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