Founders warned about the dangers of debt

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In “Hamlet,” Shakespeare pens one of the most familiar lines — and best advice — ever written. Before Laertes leaves for Paris, his father, Polonius, tells him: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be…”

We have ignored that advice for far too long, which is why the U.S. national debt is $20 trillion with more to come, thanks to the Republican Congress, which has passed a two-year spending bill that calls for $300 billion in new spending and removes caps applied by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

It’s being sold to the public with the highest and purist motives. We need to support our “brave” men and women in uniform and repair our roads and bridges.

As Politico first reported, an audit revealed a Defense Department agency can’t account for $800 million targeted for building projects. Worse, if that’s possible, the Defense Logistics Agency has no paper trial and can’t tell auditors where the money went. And Congress is going to give them more.

As for infrastructure, wasn’t the Obama “stimulus,” otherwise known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, supposed to have fixed roads and bridges? It was more like a down payment because government never has enough of our money.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, spoke the truth when he held up passage of the budget bill. As reported by The New York Times, Paul said: “I want people to feel uncomfortable. I want them to have to answer people at home who said, ‘How come you were against President Obama’s deficits and then how come you’re for Republican deficits?'”

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Paul was the only Republican senator to vote against the measure which is expected to increase the debt to $30 trillion over the next decade, when probably all of those in the Senate will be dead or gone and won’t have to take responsibility for it.

In addition to providing more money for the military, some Republicans are claiming with a straight face that this massive new spending is needed to finish repeal of Obamacare. No one can seriously believe that, especially with all of the additional pork that is undoubtedly added on to this bill in order to gain “bipartisan” support. So if it’s bipartisan, it must be good, right? Spending may be the last bipartisan act in Washington.

President Trump says if there were more Republicans in Congress the new spending and increased debt would not have happened. Maybe.

It’s helpful to remind these free-spending Republicans what our Founders warned about the dangers of debt.

James Madison said: “Debts and taxes are the known instrument for bringing the many under the domination of the few” and “I go on the principle that a public debt is a public curse.”

Thomas Jefferson spoke to the dangers of a government drunk on out-of-control spending that leads to increasing debt: “To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude.”

Among the reasons empires and great nations have collapsed is public debt. Seeking to pacify the masses by never saying “no” to anything, politicians mortgage the future while preserving their current careers. Maybe America should change its initials from USA to ATM.

To invoke singer/songwriter Don McLean in a different context and applying it to modern politicians: “They would not listen they’re not listening still; perhaps they never will.”

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist and author. Readers may email him at: tcaeditors@tribpub.com.

Cal Thomas

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