Let me start off with a blunt statement: Debt is slavery. When you are in debt to someone/something, you are slave to them until that debt is repaid. Millions of Americans are in debt to credit card companies and cannot get out from under. Everything they own is at risk to be taken away. I worked for a few years as a paralegal to a Bankruptcy Trustee -- my amazing grandfather, the late Irving Gennet -- and saw time and time again what the end run of debt looks like. It is ugly and scary and much more common than it should be. But even uglier and scarier than anyone's individual debt is our collective debt: The National Debt. Most people don't care because they don't think they feel its effects individually. Much to the contrary, they actually do feel it in so many aspects of their lives; they just don't put the big picture together. Let's look at a few basic facts, shall we?
1. Our National Debt is about $9 trillion. That's almost $30,000 for every man woman and child in the US. The National Debt is owed by the "General Fund" which is funded by our income tax. Most of that goes to the ever-rising interest on that debt and to the military.
2. The three largest holders of that debt are (in order) Japan, China and the UK. As long as they hold our debt, they OWN us. Interest to Japan alone is $30 billion. (Comparatively, the entire No Child Left Behind costs $6 billion. We cut funding for Head Start by $11 billion and we pay over $100 billion on our debt to foreign interests.)
3. We borrowed much of that money to pay for the Iraq war and for wartime tax cuts.
So we go into huge debt to fund a "war" that has thus far not only failed but made us more vulnerable to terrorism. At the same time, BushCo cuts taxes for the rich, which has never ever happened in a time of War in this country. And the rich got their tax breaks, and all were happy. But the bridge collapse in Minneapolis shone a light onto an aspect of all this that may be the beginning of a Great Reckoning.
Our nation's infrastructure is underfunded, sometimes dangerously so. Our government can't afford to fix roads and bridges at the rate that they are deteriorating, leaving us open to more Minneapolis-like disasters. It's only a shock that it's taken so long for this to happen. But our government has been put under so much debt that it can't afford the things that affect us all, rich and poor alike: maintaining our nation's infrastructure (roads, bridges, sewers, etc), securing our borders, guarding our chemical plants, nuclear plants, refineries, ports and airports adequately (if at all), protecting our food supply, funding the public education system, getting off the oil teat and becoming energy independent or even helping it's struggling citizens after a disaster like Katrina. People think these things just magically work without realizing that the money to make it all happen comes from somewhere and right now, that somewhere does not exist. Iraq and wartime tax cuts have helped suck it dry.
The point in all this is that when a bridge collapses, or a chemical plant is blown up, or a nuclear bomb is shipped into our country and utilized, it won't matter if you're rich or poor. Whatever you may have saved from your tax cuts you will pay for in so many other ways, quite possibly with your life. When a bridge collapses in Minneapolis or any of the thousands of other sites deemed unsafe, those who suffer won't suffer because of their income level or tax cuts. They will suffer because they sold out our true security -- our collective security -- for a little piece of their own. And whatever money you saved on your taxes won't bring a loved one back from death or spare your own life.
Minneapolis is a horrible shame and we hope it is not the first of many signs that we need to see in order to realize that we are fiscally killing our true security and our country. Until we recognize the huge changes and discipline needed to restore our country to good health, we will all be nothing more than a nation of slaves at the mercy of our masters. And you can take that to the bank.
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