A scary situation

Since it’s Halloween, everyone’s focused on spooky things.  Here’s a spooky thought: the U.S. national security strategy is “insolvent:”

Too few resources are chasing too many ongoing operations, forward presence commitments, and potential conflicts. U.S. military leaders have been unanimous in warning that they do not have enough troops, equipment, or funding to execute the national defense strategy. … There aren’t enough available dollars to sustain the current U.S. military strategy, which aims to simultaneously keep American global posture intact, conduct an ongoing military campaign against ISIL, sustain a global counterterrorism effort in its 16th year, and be ready for multiple contingencies against highly capable regional challengers.

Much like Maverick from the movie Top Gun, whose ego was accused of “writing checks your body can’t cash,” the United States after World War Two extended its umbrella of protection across the world, underwriting the security of what became known as the “free world.”  While that may have been appropriate (debatable) at a time when our economy represented nearly half of the world’s Gross Domestic Product, it is untenable now that our government borrows 10 to 20 percent of its annual budget, and rising interest rates make servicing the debt one of the fastest-growing Federal expenditures.

Russia.  China.  Iran.  North Korea.  Islamic terrorism.  Border security.  It’s essential the U.S. prioritize the threats (and in the case of Russia, perhaps take action to live less in conflict with other great powers).  Trump was right on the campaign trail to say that many of our allies (*cough* Europe *cough*) need to shoulder a greater portion of the burden of their own defense.  When we’re playing Twister with our national power to try to cover U.S. interests, it makes no sense to be subsidizing others at the same time.

Our current global posture is in many ways a bluff… and our potential adversaries know it.  That creates both uncertainty and potential adventurism.  It’s time our stated objectives and our commitment to maintaining them were brought back into balance.

But instead of just spending more on the military, maybe we should stop writing so many checks.

“[America} goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.  She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.  She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.” – John Quincy Adams. 1821

 

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That’s an understatement

It seems the Boomers kept taking so much equity out of their homes they’re finding it hard to retire.  An article on the subject has this to say about the phenomenon:

Rising debt levels also reflect a psychological shift among Americans, financial advisors and economists say.

“People who lived through the Great Depression came out of that period with a great aversion to debt,” said Lori Trawinski, director of banking and finance with AARP’s Public Policy Institute. “As a culture we have loosened our opinion of debt.”

Loosened our opinion?  How about completely giving in to it?  Whether it’s the national debt, the annual budget deficits or our own personal spending habits, everyone seems to have just accepted that ever-more-massive numbers are a fact of life on this side of the ledger.

And in doing so, we are building our own literal living debtor’s prisons.

Even the spectacle of hundreds of thousands of Americans losing their homes in the recent economic downturn hasn’t caused a fundamental shift in thinking about debt yet.  People still whip out the credit card to buy the latest iPhone, or take out tens of thousands of non-dischargeable debt to pursue increasingly questionable degrees that may or may not contribute to landing a job.

We didn’t get here overnight.  Those who’ve been paying attention have been talking about the exponential growth in debt, and how one day there would be a reckoning.

Regular readers know that I’ve spent years teaching my Musketeers that “debt = slavery.”  They understand the concept that taking on debt gives someone else a higher priority on your life and earnings that you yourself have.  They’ve seen that in the last 20+ years their parents have bought only two new cars (and one used one–paid in cash–when having two vehicles became necessary).  And now, as the oldest Musketeer is in his first semester of college (at a relatively inexpensive but highly praised community college) it’s still cash on the barrel.  He worked for nearly a year after graduating home school.  Between what he saved to add to what his mother and I put away, his AA degree is banked.  We’re almost to that point with the Middle Musketeer, who graduates this year, and still have several years before the Youngest has college in his sights.  We’ve explained that our goal was to have the first two years provided for each of them, but that if they want a full Bachelor’s Degree they’re going to have to play a larger role in getting there.  That said, we’ve discouraged them from taking on any debt for school, which seems to have become a means of enslaving the last couple generations of graduates.  Because of that, I have no intention of cosigning for any “student” loans.  I would rather they alternate work and school, even if living at home longer, in order to graduate debt-free, than to get on the cookie-cutter mill of four or five years of school followed by a decade or more of loan payments.

I realize many people have entered a cycle of debt just to meet basic necessities.  I also understand, as the article above points out, that attitudes in this area have changed substantially and thus peer pressure can be crushing.  The Oldest Musketeer was one of only two in his high school graduation ceremony that didn’t have a declared college plan.  But he’s also now one of of maybe two that doesn’t have a bank saddling him for a long ride even as he studies.  I think that’s a good tradeoff, no matter how many eyebrows might be raised at first.

Take “the path less traveled” — and less leveraged.  It’ll make all the difference…

“Be not one of those who give pledges,
    who put up security for debts.
If you have nothing with which to pay,
    why should your bed be taken from under you?”

Proverbs 22:26-27

In the tradition of Screwtape…

…Charles Hugh-Smith discloses the 2014 annual missive from Satan to his minions, which reads in part:

The Americans are destroying themselves with their reliance on leverage, debt, denial, half-truths and overflowing servings of the Seven Deadly Sins, all of which they have elevated to “assets” in their hopelessly twisted values. To be supremely unproductive, a churner of lies and financial trickery, is now the most rewarded and admired state in America.

The spiritual rot is now so deep and pervasive that the people no longer even recognize the decay –they have been lulled into a false belief that this culture of fraud, embezzlement, manipulations, propaganda and parasitic financial Elites has always held sway. This is precisely how a people act when they have lost their way, spiritually and morally: they elevate sins to virtues, and forget the lessons of their past.

And of course everyone claiming that there is no spiritual vacuum sucking the nation dry, that the status quo is simply “business as usual”–they are doing my work, too, for habituating to all that is corrupt and reprehensible, all that is lacking in integrity and honesty, this is doing my work most admirably.

Americans no longer hate me, they hate sacrifice and honest introspection, with a passion that enlivens my enthusiasm for their self-destruction.

How can I not be pleased this New Year? At long last, the destruction of the United States by its own citizens is close at hand. Give me two years, minions, no more than four, and I shall insure they will finally begin reaping what they have sown.

And yet, still God calls…  “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land…”