Terry Paulson

Thomas Jefferson warned us, "I, however, place economy among the first and most important Republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of dangers to be feared. To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt... I am for a government rigorously frugal and simple."

Nothing we face compares to the challenge our founding fathers faced in winning independence and forming a more perfect union, but reclaiming a "frugal and simple" government will take far more than replaying another version of Washington's "fiscal cliff" charade.

Congress first put a limit on federal debt during World War I. The limit was part of a law to allow the US Treasury to issue Liberty Bonds to help fund the war. Congress gave the Treasury greater discretion over borrowing by eliminating the need for Congress to approve each new issue of debt until it reached a specified limit. In short, Congress could authorize borrowing and then wait until they reached the next limit to argue over whether to disavow what they had already allowed.

Unfortunately, the consequences of not approving irresponsible spending and borrowing as they face the cliff is always too grave and unpredictable to allow. So there are speeches and public displays of bravado, and then...a new limit! Since March 1962, debt ceiling increases have been enacted 76 times.Congress has raised the ceiling 11 times since 2001.

So with the current version of political theater, we can already predict the outcome. There will be hand wringing, threats of economic chaos, promises of not giving in, and then...a higher debt ceiling and more debt. They "kick the can" down the road, but with President Obama's accelerated spending binge that "can" is rapidly becoming a 30-gallon drum that is getting harder and harder to kick anywhere!

In the 70's and 80's, Fram Oil Filter ads focused consumers on purchasing a low-cost oil filter instead of waiting for a very expensive engine job later. Their ad's punch line was memorable, “The choice is yours. Pay me now or pay me later.”

In your home, when do you finally cut up the credit card and face the music for uncontrolled spending? The current election results suggest that Americans have not reached that point on our national debt. When will Americans force their politicians to change their irresponsible spending and borrowing habits? Will we change while the "cliff" is still manageable or will we wait until our economy is forced to take a less-than-grand leap off a fiscal Grand Canyon?

Terry Paulson

Terry Paulson, PhD is a psychologist, award-winning professional speaker, author of The Optimism Advantage: 50 Simple Truths to Transform Your Attitudes and Actions into Results, and long-time columnist for the Ventura County Star.

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