His dark brown, leather wallet creaks when he opens it. He tips at ten percent and although he only has 54 years of life under his belt and still holds a job, he frequently uses the AARP card he received when he was 50-years-old for discounts at the local movie theater. He constantly talks about the stocks he has invested in and can never be found watching anything other than the CNN Money channel.
This man is my father, and he’s the cheapest person I know.
In Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson’s time, there were no such things as movie theaters, AARP cards or CNN Money, but they shared a belief with my father: frugality is a virtue. The Founding Fathers knew that borrowing money was necessary for a successful government, but they also realized that debt was only meant to be a temporary handicap. However, today’s United States government has not shown any sign of respect regarding paying down its own debt.
“The burden of debt is as destructive to freedom as subjugation by conquest. Think what you do when you run in debt; you give to another power over your liberty,” was Benjamin Franklin’s response to his country’s climbing debt crisis after the Revolutionary War.
Imagine what he would think today.
Debt means borrowing against the future. It gives up a present advantage for a future obligation. While this definition seems simple when read, it plays out to be a different story. The national debt rises with every second that passes, yet Washington seems blind to this fact. The way out of debt is not to refuse to pay or to risk the credit of the country, but rather to do the simple and honest thing – pay it back.
“I, however, place economy among the first and most important of Republican virtues and public debt as the greatest to be feared,” said Thomas Jefferson, who along with the other Founding Fathers believed that debt may be a necessary evil, but so is its’ repayment.
The economy is always on the minds of congressmen and women, but it should be made the priority, just as it was to Jefferson. The Founding Fathers would be screaming at the top of their lungs today to pay the bills and service the debt. They would shake their fingers at Washington for nearly defaulting on the debt and gambling with global creditors 234 years later.
According to a 2011 Gallup poll, 47 percent of Americans oppose raising the debt limit. As a nation, we need to stop spending more than our government receives in taxpayer dollars. There needs to be a halt on borrowing money to pay for government programs, bailing out large businesses and promising unfunded benefits to future generations. With our current national debt, bringing spending under control will mean tough choices. Students and faculty alike who want to help reduce America’s reliance on debt should call their representatives in Congress, educate themselves on economics and most importantly, vote.
The U.S. has the ability to pay and no threat of our credit being cut off. We can and should pay back our debt. Stop the debt and stop the risk to our credit rating. The nation’s fathers – and my own – are correct: frugality is a virtue.