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Families First: Why Have We Saddled Our Children With $33 Trillion in Debt?

Here’s what out-of-control spending looks like.

The federal government spent $1.7 trillion more than it collected in revenue in fiscal year 2023 alone. The total accumulation of annual deficits increased from $19.8 trillion (with a “t” — $19,800,000,000,000) to $33 trillion after three years of “stimulating” a national economy that COVID lockdowns had ground to a halt. The annual interest alone on the debt is $700 billion, an amount almost enough to pay for a duplicate United States military — and there is no spending slowdown in sight.

Those numbers are so enormous it’s helpful to put them in perspective. The average taxpayer’s share of the national debt is $250,000. We would consider it completely immoral for a parent to spend all his family’s money and then rack up a quarter of a million dollars in credit card bills — and still refuse to cut back on spending.

“The national debt is immoral because, unlike credit card debt, it is paid for by future generations.”

The national debt is even more immoral because, unlike credit card debt, it is paid for by future generations. It’s as if after raiding the children’s piggy banks, the indebted parent  took out loans in their names, knowing full well that he would spend it all on himself and condemn his children to have to pay for it for the rest of their lives.

In other words, children are (unwittingly) sacrificing for adults instead of adults sacrificing for children. We would never accept this in our personal lives. We should not accept it when it occurs in public policy either, which is the theme of this column. Unfortunately, sacrificing our children is more prevalent than people think.

Some policies more obviously discriminate against children than others. During the pandemic, adults tried to shield themselves from COVID infection by closing schools and playgrounds and requiring children to be masked and injected with a novel vaccine produced by not fully tested technologies. Adults didn’t sacrifice their health for kids; kids were made to risk their health for adults.

Less obvious public policy trends designed to help adults but at a steep cost to children are regulations and programs that tolerate the expansion of vagrancy in our communities. Allowing homeless people to reside in parks, on sidewalks and in other public places is called “compassionate,” regardless of how dangerous or mentally ill the people might be. Where is the compassion for the children of our cities who become routinely exposed to addicts openly using drugs, relieving themselves in public and angrily shouting at passersby? Somehow, the lion’s share of compassion goes to these adults who leave behind trash, excrement and used needles in public spaces and not to children who become less safe at parks, sidewalks, bus stops, public restrooms — even in shops and restaurants. Children again suffer for the benefit of adults.

“It is [our children’s] futures we are mortgaging to spend lavishly on our own lifestyles.”

It is not as difficult to see how the national debt puts adults’ interests ahead of children’s. Perhaps the only starker example is abortion since the majority of those cases involve the elimination of the child for the convenience of the parent. While the debt isn’t a violent act directed at children like abortion is, the national debt is nevertheless a destructive force in their lives because it is their futures we are mortgaging to spend lavishly on our own lifestyles.

The top two federal budget items are Medicare ($1.5 trillion) and Social Security ($1.4 trillion). This is mostly spent on adults. It is good to have compassion for adults, but we must also recognize the reality that since we are spending money borrowed from our children, we are literally making children pay for programs for adults. The children themselves probably won’t reap the same benefit when they become old enough to be eligible for these programs, should the programs even exist by that time.

Since we must borrow money from future generations to stay afloat, our children are financing every single federal and state program. Therefore, all expenditures across all programs hurt children to some degree. For example, we get to feel compassionate for sending $75 billion to Ukraine, but it is our children who will foot the bill.

A lot of our debt repayment must go to China. In his book Basic Economics, Thomas Sowell wrote, “Complexity is again added when people outside of the country buy into the nation’s bonds. When such a thing happens, those outside of said country are basically collecting wealth from the future generations of that nation, as the tax revenues must go to those nations. Even if all bonds are held inside the nation, it still is a tax burden the present is making on the future.”

So not only are we making our children pay for what we spend on ourselves now, but we are putting them in debt to our biggest geopolitical foe and ensuring a significant portion of their lives will be spent in servitude to a foreign country that means to rule them.

All this could be avoided simply by applying to public policy the basic morality we follow in our personal lives — placing children ahead of adults.

Eric Ingemunson is the author of hundreds of articles on Ventura County public policy, and his work has appeared in the Ventura County Star, CNN, and Fox News. He earned a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration from California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks and served as a board member for youth sports and Boy Scouts. He resides in Moorpark with his wife and four children and is active in the homeschooling community.

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