‘The Walking Dead’ and living in debt
A colleague of mine shared that she and her husband are avid fans of the TV blockbuster, “The Walking Dead.” I have never seen the show, so she described to me how the most fascinating part was the drama of seeing how people connect and process living in a post-apocalyptic world.
It was not, as some might think-the battle between humans and zombies, or gory killings seen each week. She further explained that one “turns” into a zombie if they are bitten.
This is the image that came to my mind last week when Congress decided to once again raise the debt ceiling to allow our federal government to continue to accrue billions of dollars in federal debt every single day and nearly $2 trillion in debt every year. Republicans and Democrats passed the measure without even having a check on the rate of spending.
I thought, what happened to Republicans such as John Cornyn, who, back in 2013, said, “It’s extremely unlikely that any Republican is going to raise the debt ceiling without doing something about the debt.”
Even President Obama, in 2008, said, “the problem is, the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt ...”
Does every Washington politician disregard the concept of what Nancy Pelosi said when she became Speaker of the House in 2006? The San Francisco Representative proclaimed, “After years of historic deficits, this 110th Congress will commit itself to a higher standard: pay as you go, no new deficit spending. Our new America will provide unlimited opportunity for future generations, not burden them with mountains of debt.”
At this point, I truly question whether our political leaders have any concept of budgetary limitations. Are they knowingly lying to us? Or, do they somehow “turn” when they go to Washington, and completely abandon any concept of spending limitations?
Defenders of the debt ceiling increase typically cite the following arguments: our nation’s credit rating will be harmed if action is not taken.
They argue that defaulting on our economic obligations will result in a virtual economic Armageddon if we don’t raise the debt ceiling. They rationalize that other nations do not have self-imposed national debt limits, so, why should we?
Further, they insist, other presidents, both Republican and Democrats, have greatly increased our national debts.
Unfortunately, on this latter point they are correct. Therefore, some argue that the entire issue of the debt ceiling is simply a partisan attack on our president.
They fail to consider, however, that, unlike other presidents, with the exception of Franklin Roosevelt in 1945, and Harry Truman in 1946-47, our nation has never seen its national debt exceed its gross domestic product (GDP).
And while the debt has increased with every president, the sheer compounded rate of increase of the debt is has more than tripled in the last twenty years, and at this rate is unsustainable (see chart nearby).
That being said, I think part of the reason that our political leaders are so comfortable with the ever increasing amount of national debt is because there is no incentive to cut back spending.
For everyone wants more stuff, and many of us seem perfectly comfortable living in debt in order to get it — whether it is credit cards, student loans, car loans, mortgages, or business loans. We all seem to be infected by it.
And once again, I am reminded of The Walking Dead when it was revealed that not only do people “turn” when bitten by a zombie, they also “turn” once they die, revealing that everyone is infected by a “zombie trait” lying dormant inside of them.
So the thought occurred to me, could it be that we are all simply desensitized to the slavish bonds of debt?
Maybe it is not compromised politicians or political parties assuming power that cause our political leaders to “turn.” Perhaps it is simply that we have a “debt trait” that allows us to live with exploding debt.
Maybe this trait allows us to disregard the questions of how we plan to pay back this debt or if we even intend to do so.
Maybe this debt trait has put our focus on simply living for today and disregarding any concerns about how this debt is impacting upcoming generations.
If this is the case, unless a cure is found, at some point — and given the right circumstances — we may all turn into debt zombies.
[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]