The Hezekiah Syndrome: Will Our National Debt Enslave Future Generations?

by Joe Plemon on December 11, 2009

Our National Debt
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kevin Krejci

How would you respond if you were told that your children and grandchildren are going to be enslaved by an evil dictator after you die? This is exactly what Hezekiah was told by the prophet Isaiah (see 2 Kings 20:16-18). And how did the King respond?

Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “’If GOD says it, it must be good’. But he was thinking to himself, ‘It won’t happen during my lifetime–I’ll enjoy peace and security as long as I live’.” from The Message

Did you get that? After years of good and faithful leadership, Hezekiah didn’t care about what happened to his family or his nation as long as he personally could live out his own years in peace and security.

Does this story have a ring of familiarity? Do you know of any “kings” who are willing to put future generations in bondage in order to try to achieve a measure of peace and security today? Now before you label me as an Obama basher, I want to say there is plenty of blame to go around, including the previous administration who promoted the TARP  bill. In February, 2009, the current administration passed a $787,000,000,000 (approximately $2,600 for each American) Stimulus Bill and is currently considering a new, smaller Stimulus Bill .

I ask myself, “How would this turn out if our household did the same thing?” I understand there are huge differences between personal economics and national economics, but bear with me.

What, for example, would the consequences be if my wife and I decided to borrow more money than we could ever pay back? We would effectively be squandering any possible inheritance our children might receive, but we still wouldn’t put them in financial bondage because estate laws prohibit inheritance of debt. If our estate is not big enough to cover the debt, some lenders will simply go unpaid and the debt vanishes. Our children wouldn’t inherit any assets, but they likewise wouldn’t inherit debt.

And herein lies one huge difference between personal and national economics: whereas personal debt cannot be inherited, national debt can and will. We cannot simply tell our lenders (those who bought Government bonds), “Sorry, the politicians who borrowed the money from you are no longer around.” China, for one, would not be happy.

So the debt builds and will be passed on to the next generation and the one after that.

The familiar proverb “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” takes on a meaning that perhaps we haven’t yet considered: just as the generations after Hezekiah were enslaved, this ever increasing national debt may enslave future generations.

“Just a minute, Joe,” you may be thinking. “This is the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. If we don’t save some failing banks and bail out corporations on the brink of bankruptcy, things could get much worse. Our nation could plummet into something even worse than the Great Depression. Are you saying we should do nothing?”

Good question.  My first thought is that failure, while very unpleasant at the time, is not always bad in the long term.  Individuals and businesses learn, when they fail, not to repeat the same mistakes.  My second thought is that we should set parameters for our actions, such as, “We will not increase the national debt.”  My parents and grandparents lived through the Great Depression and I certainly don’t want to live through another one. However, I would rather live though some tough times today than sacrifice the well being of future generations.

One more time: King Hezekiah thought to himself, “It won’t happen during my lifetime–I’ll enjoy peace and security as long as I live’”

The Hezekiah Syndrome is happening on our watch. We should be ashamed.

Readers: Please jump in and comment.  I appreciate your thoughts on this topic.

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