Ugly Choice

The urgency of a longer-term government shutdown has been successfully averted for a few more months. After Christmas, there will be a new round of negotiations between our disparate leaders in DC. They must have foreseen a need for the US economy to have a merry Christmas shopping season. The October angst that citizens have been feeling has only been postponed until sometime in January, when the show down for power and control will resume. However our government once did its work has apparently been changed. Maybe forever.

I am usually not concerned with writing about such things in my journal, and will probably clear my writing mind soon enough of Washington’s problems, so that I may get back to other subjects that better hold my interest. It seems worth noting the changing way of American life for my future recollection. The transitions from one time to another are difficult to see and understand while they occur. They become more meaningful to us after we have moved past them and can then look back.

The way many citizens understand money is not the way our government understands money. The argument in Washington is over deficit spending. How much money should the government borrow to stimulate the sluggish economy? Some argue that the government has already borrowed way too much and put the country into dangerous levels of debt, while opponents say that we should have no limits on how much we spend beyond our budget. In my younger days, there would have been no such argument. Americans then proudly claimed to have no national debt. Today our national debt is $17 trillion.

Is it possible to pay off the $17 trillion debt? Some say we don’t need to pay it off, that it’s okay to run it up even higher (which will probably happen next year). Others say we should pay it off at all costs. Me? I don’t think debt is preferable. We see the numbers whirling ever higher, and have perhaps become despondent that the trend will ever reverse. We are mostly perplexed by the money system, and see the perplexity manifesting among our leaders.

Each day we may be drawing closer to a point of economic collapse, our debt too big to pay off, no matter what we do. The Federal Reserve Board and the Department of Treasury act according to some other wisdom. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Ben Bernanke, who is being replaced by Janet Yellen,  says it is okay to continue issuing vast amounts of money, and that the size of our national debt is of no big concern. He makes statements like “We can continue printing money forever”.

Either we are going to learn how wrong the Federal Reserve Board’s policies have been, and fall into a state of poverty and complete ruin because of our money being worth nothing, as in the days of Germany before World War Two, or, conversely, we are all going to be able to live in a state where the economy is always being pumped with unearned money for which nobody has to work. These two extremely opposing positions on how we should advance into the future seem to be at the heart of the debate among our government leaders in Washington. Of course, that’s my simplified view.

The quality of life and availability of resources to sustain that life might be a good way of looking at the problem. What kind of lives do we really want? Where would we like to be if we could fix our money problems? That is the national discussion we should be having. Then how we get there and what we do with our money might make more sense. Do we continue to fight the rest of the world for the dwindling resources (oil, food, water, etc.), or do we cut back on consumption and work to conserve what is left of those resources? If we don’t choose the direction of our destiny, the endless bickering over money supply will make the choice for us, and it could be ugly.

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