Mortgaging the American Dream

Sep 30, 2013

In our quest to sustain the unsustainable, we are mortgaging the American Dream and hijacking the future of others.

Think about it: As a nation, we are spending money we don’t have for things we don’t make using borrowed money financed by IOUs we’ve passed on to others. We’ve made entitlement promises we can’t keep, and the debts, deficits and staggering interest charges are skyrocketing in our pursuit of this unsustainable Ponzi scheme.

Now, as Congress tees up the budget, debt ceiling and sequestration debates, will they once again kick the can down the road looking for cosmetic fixes that address symptoms and not causes – ignoring future implications – or will it be different this time?

In addition to this monetary mortgage, we’re taking out still another insidious mortgage on the American Dream: We are consuming scarce resources – fresh water, top soil, ores, minerals, fossil fuels and precious metals – at an unsustainable level and contributing heavily toward climate change and pollution in the process. 

The cumulative fallout from our “play now – pay later” culture has created a stifling mortgage on the future; a consequence we’ve all-too-often missed. Like the proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water that fails to recognize the threat of rising water temperatures until it’s too late, we’re also missing the incremental threats – and the IOUs are coming due. There’s no free lunch.

Case in point:  New college grads are finding an abysmal job market. Often unemployed or under-employed, with heavy student loan debts, they are finding the American Dream elusive. Many doubt they’ll receive full social security and Medicare benefits, and one can only imagine the environmental, energy and economic challenges the mortgage on these assets will present.

We can test this “mortgaging the American Dream” hypothesis by watching how our leaders respond to the following:

  1. Will the Feds continue to “print” $85 billion monthly to support its QE III stimulus plan?  In robbing Peter (the future) to pay Paul (the present), guess who gets stuck with the bill?
  2. Will Congress address our structural economic challenges – debt ceilings, revenue growth, spending cuts and entitlement reforms – or opt for quick fixes that pass the buck on to others? (The moral hazard equivalent of “privatizing profits and socializing risks”)
  3. Will we squash efforts to develop clean energy and clean air programs because “the time is not right” – content to stiff others with the future environmental consequences?

If history is any indicator, we’ll live for the present and pass the consequences on to others. In so doing, are we not mortgaging the American Dream in ways that will deprive others of the opportunities we had?

The News Flash Message: As these events are transpiring, there are at least three things we can do right now: 1) Follow the issues, 2) hold our elected representatives accountable and let them know where we stand, and 3) get our own house in order.

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