ANDY THOMAS:Forgive Our Debts? It's Not That Simple
Some say the Lord's Prayer with, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Others say "forgive our sins."
Logic, here, would indicate that a debt is sinful. Maybe so.
The world is deeply in debt, with little evidence that it will ever be paid off. Growing up, we were taught to avoid financial obligations that we couldn't ultimately satisfy. I had to borrow $600 from my father-in-law in 1970 to buy our first house, which cost $20,500.
This, on top of a hefty mortgage, put me deeply in debt, but we knuckled down and paid our mortgage and loan religiously.
This story is not unique, as most in our generation had similar experiences. We never thought of skipping a mortgage payment, and bankruptcy was a nasty term that hardly existed in our world. Back then we would have bet our life's fortune on the everlasting perpetuity of Chrysler, Ford and GM.
Today, debt is like the devil, eagerly lurking and luring us to get involved in it to excess. Greed and a wish to keep up with the Joneses have seriously backfired on us. Alas, debt is necessary in any society that expects to be productive. The question is, at what point is debt out of equilibrium with the ability to pay?
Active and aspiring politicians promise to ease our debt, whether local, state or federal, though that's an impossible dream. Spiraling debt has reached the point of incomprehensible magnitude, and we have learned a new word: trillion.
To pay down a trillion dollars of the U.S. debt, paying one dollar a second, it would take about 32,000 years. Western civilization has not existed for 32,000 years. Neanderthals in Europe disappeared approximately 35,000 years ago.
A stack of crisp $100 bills totaling $1 million would be about 4 feet high. A billion dollars would be 4,000 feet high, or equivalent to about three Sears Towers stacked on top of one another.
That means a stack of $100 bills totaling $1 trillion would be 789 miles high, or 144 Mount Everests stacked on top of one another.
Katrina aid was wrought with wasteful, crooked and inefficient spending, which has us concerned about the $700 billion bailout bill.
Already there are questions about unnecessary outlays, including outrageous and undeserved bonuses with no paper trail to the funds already disbursed. Our leaders in both government and industry are severely failing us taxpayers.
As adolescents, our parents responded to monetary requests with "Do you think we have a money tree in our backyard?"
Apparently the real money tree exists in Washington, D.C., where funds disbursed by the president and Congress are applied to unplanned and unbudgeted purposes. Does our Congress ever deny a request for funding? Why do we provide billions of dollars to support countries who hate us?
The 2007 U.S. federal budget totaled $2.8 trillion. The proposed 2009 budget is $3.1 trillion. Neither includes expenditures for the Iraq war. Today our public debt is $10.6 trillion, up 85 percent from the year 2000 when I moved to Pinehurst. The trend of our public debt, on a graph, looks like a rocket taking off from Cape Canaveral -- straight up.
It was a proud moment when we burned our home mortgage, a major milestone in our lives after 30 years of dedicated payments and through major recessions.
But because being in debt is so popular, we then began to spend more than our income and consequently set up a home equity loan.
I'd judge that there are precious few Americans who are completely debtless. Peer pressure feeds the need to buy what we can't afford.
If Larry Flynt of porno fame is seeking a bailout, why shouldn't I? Our mentality is sickly, and our principles are nil when it comes to owing beyond our means. A member of our own family once maxed out her credit cards while earning a meager salary and went into bankruptcy. She suffered mentally and financially as a result but recovered, due to her discipline and values, and is managing her life and obligations successfully today.
Why can't our government, the big three auto firms and a slew of others in financial trouble exercise more sense when it comes to indebtedness?
Andy Thomas lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at email@example.com
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