Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Debt Ceiling Thinking Has Cracks

Last night, I was in a discussion about the debt ceiling. Someone made the statement that before WWII there wasn't any national debt. I replied we've always had debt. Fortunately for my discussion partner, no wagers were involved.

The US has had debt since its inception. In 1790, the debt was $71 million. In the 1830's apparently there was an effort to reduce it; it got below $34,000 in 1835. Since then, it has almost always increased. Less than 30 years after its nadir, the Civil War pushed us over a billion dollars in debt. At the end of the 1990's when the government enjoyed a budget surplus, the national debt still increased.

The debt doubled during the George W. Bush years and has increased 50% since then. The last time there was a steady decline in debt was...the four years following WWII. During the 1920's the debt decreased until the Great Depression hit, but it was still there at levels higher than pre-WWI levels. We had managed to pay off half of the war debt during the Roaring Twenties through government budget surpluses. We never got a chance to pay back all the war debt. Over our nation's history, the debt has increased by 5.7% per year.

Perhaps we need a federal law like many states have: adultery often carries a jail term and a financial penalty. I know if my acquaintances are like the rest of society, there's plenty of adultery to cut our state's budget deficit. (If we could just enforce it effectively--hey, NSA, stop causing problems looking for terrorists. As long as you're violating our privacy, why not do some meta-data analysis on this problem?) Probably like my acquaintances, there's been enough high-profile military cases to indicate this might be a large scale societal issue--look at the divorce statistics. Maybe there's a sufficient adulterous portion of our populace to solve the national debt problem.

Don't worry, all you flingers. Congress can't do its main job; it surely won't be able to devise a national law like this. The ceiling won't fall on the heads of those who want to cheat on their spouses.

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