By Dr. Jim Denison, president of the Denison Forum
Before today, the United States Treasury Department was legally allowed to borrow up to $16.699 trillion. This is not enough to fund the government: by November 15, it will owe another $104 billion more than it receives in taxes. So Congress has adopted a last-minute measure to increase the debt limit.
Let’s put this in perspective.
$16.699 trillion in $1 bills stacked on top of one another would reach more than a million miles high, enough to stretch from the Earth to the moon four times with money left over. If you spent $1 million a day every day since Jesus was born, you would have spent $700 billion by now. That’s 1/23 the debt limit as of yesterday.
The combined personal income of all Americans is $13.4 trillion a year. If every American gave the government everything we make in a year, we couldn’t pay off the debt. Every day, computers at the Treasury receive more than two million invoices from various agencies. We will spend more than $415 billion this year to pay just the interest on the debt we owe.
We have been a “debtor nation” since 1985, owing foreign countries more than they owe us. At that time, an economist for Shearson Lehman Brothers noted: “The point is in some fundamental sense we are trying to consume more and more and borrowing from others in order to do that.” Ironically, there is no longer a Shearson financial firm, and you know what happened to Lehman Brothers.
Are Americans consumers more than citizens, focused not on what we can do for our country but on what our country can do for us? Plato warned that democracy would never last, because citizens would inevitably discover that they could cast their ballots based on personal preference rather than the collective good. Are we there?
You and I couldn’t prevent the debt crisis in Washington, but we can prevent one in our homes. In total, American consumers owe $11.13 trillion in debt. That amount in $1 bills would wrap around the equator 30 times. What does God’s word say about debt?
Debt enslaves the debtor: “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). We must therefore pay what we owe: “It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:5). Our character is tied to our financial integrity: “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives” (Psalm 37:21).
Here’s the bottom line: We must resist the magnet of materialism, for “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10).
How will you measure success today?