‘The Walking Dead’ and living in debt

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A colleague of mine shared that she and her husband are avid fans of the TV blockbuster, “The Walking Dead.” I have never seen the show, so she described to me how the most fascinating part was the drama of seeing how people connect and process living in a post-apocalyptic world.

It was not, as some might think-the battle between humans and zombies, or gory killings seen each week. She further explained that one “turns” into a zombie if they are bitten.

This is the image that came to my mind last week when Congress decided to once again raise the debt ceiling to allow our federal government to continue to accrue billions of dollars in federal debt every single day and nearly $2 trillion in debt every year. Republicans and Democrats passed the measure without even having a check on the rate of spending.

I thought, what happened to Republicans such as John Cornyn, who, back in 2013, said, “It’s extremely unlikely that any Republican is going to raise the debt ceiling without doing something about the debt.”

Even President Obama, in 2008, said, “the problem is, the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt ...”

Does every Washington politician disregard the concept of what Nancy Pelosi said when she became Speaker of the House in 2006? The San Francisco Representative proclaimed, “After years of historic deficits, this 110th Congress will commit itself to a higher standard: pay as you go, no new deficit spending. Our new America will provide unlimited opportunity for future generations, not burden them with mountains of debt.”

At this point, I truly question whether our political leaders have any concept of budgetary limitations. Are they knowingly lying to us? Or, do they somehow “turn” when they go to Washington, and completely abandon any concept of spending limitations?

Defenders of the debt ceiling increase typically cite the following arguments: our nation’s credit rating will be harmed if action is not taken.

They argue that defaulting on our economic obligations will result in a virtual economic Armageddon if we don’t raise the debt ceiling. They rationalize that other nations do not have self-imposed national debt limits, so, why should we?

Further, they insist, other presidents, both Republican and Democrats, have greatly increased our national debts.

Unfortunately, on this latter point they are correct. Therefore, some argue that the entire issue of the debt ceiling is simply a partisan attack on our president.

They fail to consider, however, that, unlike other presidents, with the exception of Franklin Roosevelt in 1945, and Harry Truman in 1946-47, our nation has never seen its national debt exceed its gross domestic product (GDP).

And while the debt has increased with every president, the sheer compounded rate of increase of the debt is has more than tripled in the last twenty years, and at this rate is unsustainable (see chart nearby).

That being said, I think part of the reason that our political leaders are so comfortable with the ever increasing amount of national debt is because there is no incentive to cut back spending.

For everyone wants more stuff, and many of us seem perfectly comfortable living in debt in order to get it — whether it is credit cards, student loans, car loans, mortgages, or business loans. We all seem to be infected by it.

And once again, I am reminded of The Walking Dead when it was revealed that not only do people “turn” when bitten by a zombie, they also “turn” once they die, revealing that everyone is infected by a “zombie trait” lying dormant inside of them.

So the thought occurred to me, could it be that we are all simply desensitized to the slavish bonds of debt?

Maybe it is not compromised politicians or political parties assuming power that cause our political leaders to “turn.” Perhaps it is simply that we have a “debt trait” that allows us to live with exploding debt.

Maybe this trait allows us to disregard the questions of how we plan to pay back this debt or if we even intend to do so.

Maybe this debt trait has put our focus on simply living for today and disregarding any concerns about how this debt is impacting upcoming generations.

If this is the case, unless a cure is found, at some point — and given the right circumstances — we may all turn into debt zombies.

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]

bbwillis
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We already spent the money - not exactly

This is to clarify for my friends who are debating that we have already spent the money that is captured in the federal budget. The federal budget is comprised of many things. However, approx. 2/3 of it is non-discretionary spending (i.e. Medicare, Social Security, other entitlement programs). The current rules of eligibility obligate us to pay this in ever-increasing amounts. So, there have been talks of making reforms (e.g. increasing retirement age, means testing, etc.) to ultimately manage our deficits long-term. Approx. 1/3 of the budget is discretionary (e.g. military, federal departments). We have not "spent" this already. Less than 10% of the budget actually goes towards debt interest which if not paid would place us in default. Tax receipts covers about 60% of this spending and the rest is borrowed. Here's the point, the president and congress can use their enumerated powers to prioritize and re-structure our federal spending, decrease its current rate of spending, and increase our GDP, so we don't have to hit the ceiling.

stranger than f...
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Ms. Willlis is just another victim of Fox "News" Illogic

The appropriate venue to revise our spending priorities is in the budget process. Congress and the President certainly should adjust spending to the amount of money available to them in taxes and fees. We last had a budget surplus under President Clinton.

Ms. Willis' Fox "News" and tea party inspired rant against raising the debt limit demonstrates a misunderstanding of the process. Since the Lilliputians we continue to send to Congress voted for a bloated budget, we are obligated to pay for their folly. Merely refusing to pay our country's debts would place us in banana republic status.

PTC Observer
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Revise Spending Priorities? STF

If this was the answer, then we could have done this forty years ago. No STF, the problem is Social Democracy. We have a broken government that does not represent the best interests of the American people, it represents its own power and corruption. The real answer is deciding what is the proper role of government as envisioned under the Constitution of the United States as written and corrected to eliminate slavery. What exactly do we want our government to do?

As to spending priorities, gutting the military seems to be high on the list at the moment. Ever wonder why given we are surrounded by enemies that want to destroy the USA and Western Civilization in general?

Entitlements?

stranger than f...
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Willis is Misinformed

Ms. Willis masquerades as a true capitalist, but obviously, she doesn't understand the difference between accruing future debt and paying our bills for money already borrowed. If we allow individuals, corporations, or the government to default on loan payments, the financial underpinnings of our society will be jeopardized.

In the future, I hope someone at the Citizen will vet her musings before applying the ink.

PTC Observer
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STF - Explain

Explain this please, it seems to be a circular self serving argument.

Exactly when do we stop borrowing money?

Do you borrow money, never pay it off, exceed your debit limit, then raise your debt limit to make sure you can borrow more in the future, then exceed this new limit? Of course you don't, so why is it that our government can't live within it's means?

Answer:

A. They pass programs that can never be paid down (entitlements), costs are increasing at an increasing rate.
B. They print money AND it's the world's reserve currency. Therefore, they export inflation and risk to the rest of the world.
C. They only care about re-election, stealing other citizens money and have no idea why it seems to keep working out anyway.
D. All of the above.

G35 Dude
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Nice article Ms Willis

Nice article. I once heard the question asked this way. "If your house was flooded with sewage, would you raise the ceiling, or clean out the crap?"

Davids mom
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Debt

It is the understanding of many that if one is ''in debt' - he/she has received something in exchange for t he 'debt' that must be repaid. Our Congressmen 'purchase' something or some program - borrow money to pay for it - and continue this practice - so the debt grows. Years ago I posted a question on why we 'lend' so much money to other countries - when we haven't had a surplus in the US since Bill Clinton?

Economics is a complex subject - but what are we doing wrong that we are losing our middle class - due mainly to the job situation?

borntorun
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Exactly DM

The debt is there because of prior action. Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize Congress to spend more money. A concept Bonnie doesn't seem to get. But you can't just walk away from an incurred debt. Whether that be Congress or us personally. Do we need to stop spending? Absolutely. I have no problem with every dollar being raised to pay off the existing debt that one being cut elsewhere to pay for it. And I agree with you....why are we spending so much money on other countries? Even those who do not like us when there is so much need here at home.

G35 Dude
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BTR
Quote:

Do we need to stop spending? Absolutely. I have no problem with every dollar being raised to pay off the existing debt that one being cut elsewhere to pay for it.

Exactly. But the the spending doesn't stop. And Congress keeps raising the debt limit so that they can keep spending. Politicians don't care because they know they'll be out of office before the stuff hits the fan and they'll have theirs.

borntorun
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Agree G35 Dude

But not paying the debt incurred is not the answer. Again, going back to my analogy with your credit card, how does not paying the debt you've already incurred stop you from spending more? It doesn't. The answer is pay what you owe and quit spending. As for politicians, we have no one to blame but ourselves. We keep electing them so in the end, the debt problem and fault lies with us.

borntorun
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Wrong Bonnie....Again

"...when Congress decided to once again raise the debt ceiling to allow our federal government to continue to accrue billions of dollars in federal debt every single day and nearly $2 trillion in debt every year."

Wrong. Raising the debt ceiling allows the government to pay for debt already incurred...it doesn't authorize the government to accrue more debt. It would be like you running up debt on a credit card but refusing to pay off the debt. Sorry.....but the debt is already incurred and you owe it.

I agree the answer is for the government to not accrue more debt. But once they do accrue it, they owe it....just as you would with your credit card.

That's two weeks in a row where you've misunderstood the facts.

C'mon....you're smarter than that!

Git Real
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Well Done Bonnie

Best of success to you!!!!!!

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