Debt is a Four-Letter Word

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”–Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Actually, it really was the best of times for a while and many of us thought it would go on forever. When you’re dealing in economics and politics, though, nothing goes on forever and when the situation finally turned just a few months ago, it echoed Ernest Hemingway’s description of going bankrupt — “…gradually, then suddenly.”

We may have seen ‘the best of times’, but it is fairly certain that we have not yet begun to plumb the depths of ‘the worst of times’. It is quite possible, probable even, that we are only beginning to experience the consequences of decades of living large on a debt binge, fueled by annually growing government deficits, ever-increasing “fiscal stimulus” injected into the economy by the Federal Reserve, and the average person in hock up to his eyeballs as he tried to maintain his lifestyle of keeping up with the Joneses.

We have a rough and rocky road ahead of us. Our economy is not going to bounce back and revert to “normal” once the Coronavirus pandemic has run its course. The far larger threat is financial, economic, and political ruin on a truly massive scale. It would be easy, but not accurate, to blame the virus for what is happening. The truth is, however, that Corona only acted as the pin which pricked the Federal Reserve caused bubble. It may have been the catalyst which started the action, but the bubble had been building for a long, long time—searching for a pin and an opportune time to brush up against it.

Normal? If what we had before was normal, then we are going to experience something far worse—major recession and even Greater Depression, widespread unemployment, hyper-inflation, the death of the US dollar, authoritarian and autocratic rule, martial law, chaos, destruction, wars, and a loss of life on a scale we’ve not seen before. Is that abnormal? It’s going to become the new normal and we’re going to learn how to live with it and, potentially, to die from it. When it’s over, everything about us as a people, society, culture, country, and world will be different. Completely different.

I am confident, though, that somehow, someway, most of us will manage to survive and come out on the other side—poorer, stronger, and wiser. And I think it is safe to say that for the vast majority of people, the word ‘debt’ will once again become a four-letter word.

As it should.

I wrote this article on March 27, 2020. It was first published as a Letter to the Editor in the Bitterroot Star, Stevensville, MT.

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