This past Wednesday, roughly 67 million Americans turned on their TVs to watch the first Presidential debate between President Obama and Governor Romney. I was one of those 67 million people. For political junkees, it was like anticipating the big game! And for most viewers, I think people generally left content, regardless of the outcome. I was pleasantly surprised by the civility, information, and how interesting the debate was. It was about the issues that matter most to us Americans: domestic policy, i.e. what policies make a difference in our lives every day.
I’m curious how many MMM readers watched the debate. If so, why? If not, why not? If so, what was your reaction? Are you political/apolitical/a political junkee/hate politics? That night I thought long and hard about what I might write for MMM about the debate. I’d like to entertain you with a story.
When I was 18 years old, as a freshmen in college, I was on my way to the library when I stopped to fill out my first-ever credit card application. I wasn’t interested in a credit card, I was interested in the free Walkman (yes, it dates me…) that I was given by filling out the application. Unfortunately, I also received a credit card in the mail a few weeks later. My credit card sat for a few months untouched. However, something happened that caused me to use it. So I charged $12. A few weeks later I had to pay for our apartment phone bill but had spent the money my parents had allotted me for the month. I didn’t have a job and I was panicked and too scared and prideful to admit I’d spent the money on something frivolous, I’m sure. So I pulled out my credit card and it came to my aid.
Over the course of a year, I somehow managed to rack up $900 on my credit card. As a 19-year-old that didn’t have a job, I realized I was in trouble because I had to pay that money back! In fact, it was so haunting, it even impacted some of the decisions I made at that time in my life.
As I look back at that experience in life, I still remember the pit in my stomach I had when I realized I had debt hanging over my head and that I was responsible for paying it back. What if I died? Would my parents be stuck with the bill? While that was a scary experience, it was one of life’s best lessons because it taught me that debt reduces our freedoms.
Why does this story relate to politics? Because our country has been spending like a teenager with a credit card. And we are only now in the past few years demanding that we stop pretending there isn’t a dark cloud called The Deficit hanging over our heads to the tune of $16 Trillion. And like I was concerned with who would get stuck with the outstanding debt should I die, we have now indebted our future generations with our debt. It’s a sobering thought, but what’s more sobering is that we don’t receive a monthly bill for it, so we aren’t acknowledging the fact that we’re going to have to make hard choices as Americans and cut spending in ways that will affect all of us differently, in one way or another.
For me, the Presidential debate on domestic issues was about looking hard at the stark reality of the future of America. Are we going to make the choices today that will prolong our freedoms or are we willing to enslave ourselves to debt and other countries (like China) to pay for today what we can’t afford? That is the underlying question.