Debt Bondage, the US Congress, and a Show-Cause Order

| August 16 2011
David Leeper
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Illustration: Seniors, seated in the wagon, either don't know or don't want to know that our children, both born and yet-to-be-born, are pulling that wagon and being forced into Debt Bondage, thanks to the malfeasance of multi-term members of Congress like those shown standing. (Art by Frances Byrd)

 

Debt bondage is a form of slavery in which persons pledge themselves against a loan.  It is rightly called bondage when the services required to repay the debt are undefined and the payoff period is indefinite.

In one of its forms, parents may actually sell their own children into debt bondage in return for money or some form of security promised for the present day.  Sometimes the parents do it knowingly and tragically because they have no choice.   In other cases, the parents are duped with promises of good jobs for their offspring, only to find they’ve effectively sold them into a lifetime of slavery and exploitation.  In that form it is truly vile, and it is hard to imagine anything more immoral.

How many parents in America would knowingly sell their children into debt bondage?   In the form described above, virtually none would ever knowingly do such a thing.

And yet —

In exchange for “guaranteed” health care and retirement income in our own time, many of us have unwittingly signed our children into a creeping form of debt bondage in their own time, aided and abetted by our own elected officials in Congress.

To support our major entitlement programs as they are designed today, it is a mathematical certainty that our children and grandchildren will be forced into debt bondage, paying off a mountain of debt we are handing them.

It should have been abundantly clear to Congress that we and our offspring could never have hoped to pay for the programs they voted for.  Any competent accountant with a calculator and demographic data could have proved it to them.

So how could our legislators ever have done such a thing?   Where were they?  What were they thinking?

Some, perhaps, did it unwittingly.  If so, it was gross negligence.  They were supposed to be minding the store for us.  They were supposed to be looking out for us and our children while we were working.   Because the consequences of these programs have been entirely predictable, there is no excuse for such irresponsible behavior.  And the longer these legislators have been in Congress, the more culpable they are.

Some other legislators in Congress may have known full well what they were doing, hoping to be out of office when the bills came due, passing the problem off to their successors and their hapless constituents.  “Negligence” is far too generous a term for those people — even “criminal” is too weak a term.  How different are they from the debt slavers of South Asia, making false promises to parents and then enslaving their children?

So what is being done about all this today?

Whether negligent or criminal, the very people who committed these acts of gross malfeasance are now trying to portray as “extremists” those fiscally conservative freshman members of Congress who are attacking the problem in good faith.  It’s like blaming the fire department for the fire consuming one’s home.  It’s like blaming Paul Revere for the approaching British regulars.  It’s like blaming the doctor when one receives a diagnosis of lung cancer.

Instead of attacking the core problem head-on, leading Democrats and the President have focused on tax breaks for corporate-jet owners, oil company executives, millionaires and billionaires, and other boogey-men when they know full well that even confiscating all of their wealth would only stave off disaster for another year or so.  They cook up focus-group-tested phrases like “end Medicare as we know it”, repeat the phrases ad nauseum, scaring seniors while saying nothing at all about the debt bondage to which they’ve committed our children and grand-children.

A few brave souls, led by the likes of Rep. Paul Ryan, have developed fiscal plans that would actually save our children from debt bondage.  Ryan’s proposed 2012 budget would head off disaster, albeit slowly, while preserving Medicare and Medicaid exactly “as we know it” for anyone over age 54.  With the time they have to plan, and with means-tested assistance prescribed by Ryan’s plan, those under 55 could purchase health care and insurance in a competitive market instead of Obamacare’s bureaucratic nightmare of Washington-based price controls and rationing panels.

Alas, the Democrat-controlled Senate rejected the Ryan budget and have since tabled the related Cut, Cap, and Balance act.  In return, what has the Senate offered?   Nothing.  Not even a spending budget in more than 800 days.  In the meantime, we continue rolling up debt at the rate of over $4.5 billion per day.  Reprehensible.

There comes a time in the life of a business enterprise or a government body when financial mismanagement is so deep, so profound, and so ingrained that no amount of patching can avoid disaster.  We’re there now.  We need to replace the managers.

If you are a multi-term member of the Senate or House, and especially if you’ve been there for decades, my appeal to you is simple.  It is this:

Do not run again for office. 

Announce you want to spend more time with your family, or pick some other bromide, but for our sake and yours, leave Washington, don’t come back, and let someone new take your seat.   Our children have been sold out on your watch, and the longer you’ve been in Congress, the greater your shame.

This, then, is a citizen-issued Show-Cause Order

Show cause why you should not leave Congress at the end of your term.  Show us that you’ve understood the magnitude of the debt tsunami approaching us.  Show us how you sounded the alarm to your constituents, colleagues, and our nation.  Show us how you tried to constrain the cost of our entitlement programs.  Show us how you advanced legislation to fix the problem.  Show us that you actually worked the problem instead of demagoguing it.

Legislator, this is the litmus test for your re-election eligibility.  Show us citizens these things or have the decency to pack it in and go home.

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