Can America afford to be great anymore? Many say, “no”


A friend posted this on Facebook:

“As of today our total national debt is roughly $17 1/2 trillion. Of that number nearly $12 1/2 trillion is publicly owed. Can you even get your mind around it?”

To which I responded:

As a portion of GDP, our national debt was much greater in 1946.

So, the Congress did what it had to do.

Congress borrowed money to educate millions of returning veterans, and to subsidize their homes. The greatest education aid and housing aid programs in history, both in the GI Bill.

Poster honoring the Marshall Plan, to rebuild Europe after World War II -- on borrowed money.

Poster honoring the Marshall Plan, to rebuild Europe after World War II — on borrowed money.

Congress borrowed money to give it away to our allies in World War II, to rebuild their industrial capabilities, on the assumption that an ally with a strong industrial base and good economy is stronger, and can come to our aid if and when we need it.

Congress borrowed money to give it away to our enemies in World War II, to rebuild their industrial capabilities, because a nation with a good economy and health trade tends to stay out of war. Those nations became our allies.

Congress borrowed to build the greatest road system in history, connecting nearly every corner of America — under the pretense that such a road system would allow us to move troops and armaments quickly from coast to coast in event of a defense emergency.

Congress borrowed to finance space exploration, to go to the Moonbecause, you know, it’s hard.

Congress borrowed to build a library in every county in America, and fill it with books — so that if there were ever nuclear war, everybody who survived would be close to the information necessary to rebuild civilization.

Congress borrowed to build the world’s greatest air transportation system, with airports for sport, business and commercial aviation all over the place.

Congress borrowed to build sewer systems and water systems, doubling down on public health service spending, to prevent disease and make health people.

Funny things happened. Our economy boomed. The world economy boomed. Millions of new jobs were created, filled by people who paid whopping taxes. And the debt sorta melted away.
___________

When I hear people complain about our national debt, and how we as Americans must stop spending money, I hear them saying, “We cannot afford to be great anymore. Our time as the world’s leading economy and leading democracy has passed. It will be a lot cheaper for the nation to curl into a national fetal position, and then taxes won’t be so high.”

In 1946 — and in 1948, 1950, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1968, and other election years — there were plenty of Americans who said “we can’t afford the Marshall Plan; we can’t afford foreign aid; we can’t afford to build all these roads; we can’t afford to go to the Moon; we can’t afford to pay for college (or other schooling) for all these veterans/students.”

What would America look like, had leaders listened to those people, and then NOT borrowed the money to build America?  What would the world look like?

I don’t think George Washington spent 8 years at war to curl into the fetal position and give up.

Am I wrong?

The future of an America that is afraid to be great, even if we need to borrow money to do it? (Image from Brogan Knight)

The future of an America that is afraid to be great, even if we need to borrow money to do it? (Image from Brogan Knight)

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3 Responses to Can America afford to be great anymore? Many say, “no”

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    An often-unsung benefit of borrowing money to grow: Taxes rates, and individual taxes, decline. With more taxpayers making more money, we can afford to cut tax rates.

    Tax rates were very high at the start of the Greatest Generation Building of America, but declined. Government income increased with the decline in tax rates.

    Want to lower taxes? Get a good program for economic development, and go for it. In almost every case, that program for economic development will require borrowing upfront. Taxes will be lower in the end.

    Like

  2. Black Flag® says:

    The US was “great” due to its economic freedom, not from its government spending.

    It is becoming less and less because of government spending and intrusions into the marketplace.

    You want the nation to become “great” again, reduce (end!) government intrusion into the market.

    Like

  3. Black Flag® says:

    A disingenuous argument.
    The debt/GDP in 1946 was due to the war!

    Wholly different situation now.

    Today, you demand government to borrow money so to give to people to do nothing – the welfare state.

    The government CUT its spending, Ed, post war – instead of consuming capital, it allowed industry and commerce to use that capital to grow the economy.

    You want economic lunacy – seize the economic output of the economy to grow the welfare state.

    Like

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