Players in a Ponzi Scheme

A small church on my route between home and Conscious Cup once had a sign:

“Debt is borrowing from the future to enrich the present.”

Politically, we’re now engaged in debate over our federal deficit and our debt to be paid by our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The federal deficit as a percentage of GDP declined from the end of World War II to the beginning of the Reagan presidency. The deficit has, with the exception of the end of the Clinton administration, climbed steadily since Reagan. (See chart in Wikipedia.)

The current conservative argument is that increasing the deficit is a very bad thing, even if the goal is to spur the economy out of recession. Conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, the outcome for the deficit has been little affected by stated party philosophy. The route to deficit had just been different — through tax cuts or spending or, most popular, both tax cuts and spending. Here’s a clear picture of  which party was in control, if this phrase “in control” means anything.

Our federal deficit may be the least of our problems. The federal deficit may be a micro view of our future compared to the global, environmental deficit we have created.

If only I could get my denier friends and family to read with an open mind, this is where I would send them: Climate Progress. In Climate Progress, Joseph Romm, puts forth the same points about resource depletion and sustainability as we hear in our deficit debates: That we have saddled our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and beyond with an environmental deficit that is not sustainable.

Romm maintains that we have created a Ponzi scheme whereby we have borrowed from the future to enrich today. Like a Ponzi scheme, this course of life globally is unsustainable. Climate change is the outcome of an economy high on carbon output. Romm is author of Hell and High Water: Global Warming–the Solution and the Politics–and What We Should Do.

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