What happened to the American dream?

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For many years, politicians from both sides of the aisle have tried to endear themselves to the populace by claiming they are deeply concerned about the economic welfare of average Americans, as well as the preservation and enhancement of “the American dream.” Despite their multitudinous promises and limited actions, that dream continues to slip away.

Previously in America, Jim the butcher put a percentage of his weekly earnings into his savings account every Friday for a few decades and watched it grow with great satisfaction. He could retire in relative comfort with or without supplementation from Social Security. This part of the American dream has been greatly diminished because many people no longer bother with savings accounts that yield very little interest, which has been the case for nearly a decade now. A large portion of the blame for the near-zero interest rates belongs to the Federal Reserve System, which sets interest rates as part of its attempt to control monetary policy and provide economic stability.

{mosads}Every quarter, we hear talk about raising the interest rates, but in recent years, we have only witnessed a single one-quarter percent increase in the rate. Despite the myriad explanations provided, the real problem is the national debt that sits at over $19 trillion currently. The annual interest payment (debt service) is over $250 billion with near-zero interest rates. If rates were allowed to rise to a more standard 4-6 percent range, we would be facing annual interest payments in the $1 trillion range, which we clearly cannot afford.

We have a choice of continuing to borrow against the future of our children with an ever-increasing national debt, which will inevitably result in financial catastrophe, or taking a step that seems to be anathema to both political parties, which would be exercising fiscal responsibility and actually reducing the national debt. Thomas Jefferson said it is immoral to pass debt to the next generation. I wonder what he would say if he could see what we are doing today.

Politicians love to make grandiose promises to the people, especially during election years, with no reasonable plans to pay for them other than invoking the classically successful trick of class warfare, with the knowledge that the largest percentage of voters are not wealthy and many easily fall prey to such tactics. The politicians promise to solve our problems and confiscate the wealth of the “evil rich.” Of course history fails to confirm the validity of this approach, but the people keep falling for it.

The problem that we face as a nation with our finances is much bigger than any personality or political party. The bickering must stop, because the impending financial crisis associated with our ever-increasing debt will devastate everyone, regardless of political affiliation. We must focus on not only halting debt accumulation but on eliminating the debt. 

The first step is realizing that our debt is a real problem in need of a solution. As some claim, $19 trillion is not just a meaningless number that can be ameliorated by printing more money that is tied to nothing with real value. Next, as in any household, we must balance the budget, by amendment if necessary, although responsible leadership in the executive and legislative branches of government could start the process rapidly. There is enormous wasteful spending throughout the government, as has been clearly delineated by the Congressional Budget Office and the House Budget Committee reports. Little is done about the inappropriate spending, because special-interest groups always protect their turf through their hired guns scattered throughout our system of government.

There are 645 governmental agencies and subagencies, all of which have annual budgets and all of which can tolerate small cuts in those budgets. There can be no sacred cows when the whole herd is about to perish. If the heads of each agency cannot determine where the fat is, they should be offered an opportunity for alternative employment. We are talking about the hard-earned money of the American people, and someone must assume responsibility for spending it appropriately.

Of course, this writer realizes creating an environment that encourages entrepreneurial risk-taking and capital investment will invigorate the most powerful economic engine the world has ever known and help solve some of these problems, and that rectifying a draconian tax code and eliminating unnecessary regulations are vital components of a more comprehensive plan of economic recovery, but it all begins with basic fiscal responsibility. Do not spin what you do not have; as Solomon, the wisest man in history, stated, “The borrower is servant to the lender.” 

Political courage will be required to do what is necessary to save our nation from financial ruin, but in the long run, a much healthier society will emerge, and the American dream will be preserved for our posterity.

Carson, a retired surgeon, was until recently a candidate for the Republican nomination for president. He recently endorsed Donald Trump.

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