September 19, 2008

Wanted: Tough Talk on Debt

I've been hoping for Obama to give another "tough talk" speech to Americans about debt, like he has done in the past to tell us to educate our children. I haven't heard the message I want to hear yet. But the current debt crisis seems like a perfect time.

We Are All Responsible

As banks fail, there is plenty of blame to go around. But this is not the time to skewer Wall Street, foreign investors, Bernanke, or federal agencies. This is a "teaching moment". This is time for Professor Obama to teach Americans that as a culture we all borrow too much, and that we need to do better. And we need to expect better from our government.

Investing In the Future

We have forgotten that borrowing is supposed to be about investing in the future. Instead, we splurge on today and borrow ourselves into a hole. We borrow to spend, to renovate the house, to buy a car, to pay for a cell phone. The ultimate waste is when we borrow to go to war. We borrow so much and so quickly that not only have we driven up our own borrowing costs - we have destroyed our entire debt market. It is madness. Our culture of borrowing is no better than our culture of plopping kids in front of the TV. Only, as we are seeing, the bad effects of ludicrous debt are coming to bite us much more quickly.

What Obama Should Say

Obama should make "running a fat government surplus" part of his platform. That would really be something.

I would even more like to see Obama use the bully pulpit to shame us all into paying off our credit cards, and thinking twice before taking our next car loan. Biden had it 10% right when he said that there is patriotism for the rich in pitching in their fair share of taxes. What about the other 90% of us? For the non-rich, there is honor and patriotism in keeping the old junker for a few more miles, putting off the next luxury purchase for little while longer - and being able to pay for things with cash money.

Posted by David at September 19, 2008 04:45 PM

I'm not sure what evidence there is that Obama is much of a saver. His proposals to create universal health care and other spending plans shown here hardly seem to focus on saving. The idea we'll make up for all that by taxing the richest 5% doesn't really hold water.

So I think a speech by Obama on reversing debt would be out of character with his campaign.

Frankly of all the candidates or ex-candidates speaking about the economy, Ron Paul seems to make the most sense when talking about reversing our debt. But no one seems to listen to him.

Posted by: Peter H at September 20, 2008 03:06 AM
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