Debt, Death & Taxes: Our Nation’s Debt


Written by John Kenyon

Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Indeed as April 15 draws near we are reminded of that reality. Yet, there is another reality that we push to the back of our thoughts that looms ever above us; the national debt.

There have been three recent items that spurred the writing of this blog. The first came from a comic strip titled Prickly City. Winslow (a coyote pup) asks Carmen (a young girl), “Do you ever wonder what the founding fathers would think of us today?!? The next frame has three of our founders staring out of the page with discontented facial expressions and a few choice words. Carmen responds, “I try not to ….”

The second was reading through the Faith & Freedom Guide (produced by The Providence Forum). This booklet takes the visitor of Philadelphia on a tour highlighting the legacy of faith and freedom that created the liberty Americans enjoy today.  The stop at the historic First National Bank gives a quote from Washington’s farewell address on September 19, 1796. Here Washington warns,

“As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of persevering it is to use it as sparingly as possible:  avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of Peace to discharge the Debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.”

The final event was a reminder of the debt of this nation. It is now over $20 trillion dollars. Just to help you understand this figure, here is what it looks like written out:  $20,000,000,000,000. There are those who have broken this bill down to how much each taxpayer would have to pay to zero it out. The amount in 2015, when the total was $18.2 trillion, was over $154,000 per taxpayer.

The warning our first president gave concerning debt was very clear. Our government is placing upon the neck of our posterity a burden they will have to bear yet have no say in it. In our culture today that calls for equity at all costs, it seems we have forgotten the future and are seeking only our welfare. Our legislators, who we elect to serve, seem unwilling to make the hard choices needed to curb runaway spending. What would the founders of our nation say concerning our generation? I know what Washington would say and as Carmen stated, “I try not to ….”

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