It’s election season again. And once again – just as they’ve done time after time in every recent election – this country’s two-dimensional thinking, Kool Aid-drinking, and fear-mongering presidential hopefuls on the right will be bandying about a word designed to invoke in the minds of millions of voters idyllic days from a simpler, more sepia-colored time in American history.
That word is debt – or, as they will use it, our national debt. Those red tie-wearing, flag pin-sporting fear-vendors will try to once again convince us Americans that debt is, somehow, a bad thing, that debt is a financially irresponsible, and that debt is a measure of our weakness as an economy.
The problem is, those bozos have no clue as to what they’re talking about.
I go to the bank tomorrow to borrow working capital to buy a new machine or, as I’m doing now, erecting an all-new plant to replace my outmoded one, what do I end up with at the end of the day? Well, besides a new state-of-the-art machine and/or a new, more efficient factory, I end up with a certain amount of debt.
But in this case that debt is a good debt. It is a sign of strength, a sign of growth, and a sign of looking forward and planning ahead.
What’s more, do you know the last time some major economic powers in this world were actually out of debt?
England, for example, has been in various levels of debt for over 300 years, a time during which, as economist Paul Krugman rightly points out, such things as the industrial revolution and victories over ambitious tyrants like Napoleon and Hitler have occurred.
Meanwhile – and this, mind you, according to that perennial presidential hopeful Rand Paul (which would seem to indicate just how far out of step that guy is) – the United States has not been debt-free since 1835.
And while Paul is trying to spin that little nugget as an economic negative, maybe someone should whisper in his ear and remind the guy in the 180 years that have passed since 1835 just how many economic booms were experienced, how many World Wars were won, how many mega-corporations were launched, and just how many engineering marvels of infrastructure achievement were constructed in this debt-laden land of ours.
And while I’m on that subject, take a good hard look at our country’s rapidly decaying infrastructure. And pay particular attention to our rusting bridges, outdated power grids, rotting underground pipes, crumbling highways, and wheezing 20th Century rail system.
What would you rather be as a country? Debt free, but with all those ticking time bombs ready to go off and send our economy tumbling into a dramatic nosedive? Or with a pile of floating debt, however large, with a great portion of it earmarked to create thousands of jobs, inject billions into our public sector and – oh yes – turn those ticking time bombs of infrastructure liability into marketplace assets.
Look, I’m not telling you how to vote. You have my permission to drink all the Kool Aid you want. But at least when it comes to this upcoming election and this economy’s relationship to its national debt, please, do yourself a favor. Wake up and smell what certain right-wing politicians promise to be shoveling, even as they’re trying to convince you that the steaming pile of stuff on their shovel is something else entirely.