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.
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 Moon — because, 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.”
That’s what I hear the GOP saying, when they urge tax cuts for the rich, while taking away food stamps from the families of our military deployed overseas. (Can you imagine anything like that happening during World War II? Not even “interned” families of soldiers went hungry.)
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)