“Vote For Your Grandchildren,” proclaimed the bumper sticker I’d walked by many times. Thinking about what that might mean, I considered our growing national debt of $18 trillion+, which is expected to equal our entire Gross Domestic Product soon, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Others claim we’re there already, but that isn’t a campaign issue I’ve heard anything about in the 2016 race for president. Why is that?
|Some of my grandchildren|
Rather, we’re hearing about Greece’s national debt. Greek debt to GDP was at 100% ten years ago, but now it’s 175% and Greece is telling the world two things: One, that it has no intention of paying it back, and two, that it wants to borrow more money. Talk about brazen! Greeks want to retire at fifty with full benefits and they want the rest of Europe to pay for it because they don’t like paying taxes. Quoted in the Wall Street Journal: “Greeks consider taxes as theft,” said Aristides Hatzis, an associate professor of law and economics at the University of Athens. “Normally taxes are considered the price you have to pay for a just state, but this is not accepted by the Greek mentality.” Taxes are also the price of civilization. It’s not accepted by nearly half the US population either, who pay no federal income taxes.
By the time he leaves office, President Obama will have raised our national debt more than every other president combined. He will have doubled it to about $20 trillion. Do we hear about this in the mainstream media? No, we don’t. What do we have to show for all that money? I don’t see anything, do you? No infrastructure improvements, no projects that were supposed to have been “shovel ready” when he rammed through his $864 billion “stimulus” in 2009.
Do Americans intend to pay off our growing debt? Doesn’t look that way. Like the Greeks, we keep on spending money we don’t have and passing the bill onto our grandchildren. Are we going the way of the Greeks? Seems like it, but there are differences. The entire Greek economy is only about 2% of the European Union economy. If it went belly up, it shouldn’t affect the rest of the EU or the world. But what if we went bankrupt? The whole world would likely go down with us.
|Wife Roseann and her niece Christina on Athens Street|
Traveling around Greece last year, what I remember most is graffiti. In Athens, it was everywhere! There were layers and layers of it on virtually every vertical surface reachable by a human hand holding a can of spray paint. There were countless acts of people using someone else’s property as an easel, as a billboard, to display whatever notion was in their mind at the time. Owners of the property must then expend time, energy, and money to clean it up. It was evident that they couldn’t keep up. It’s vandalism, plain and simple, not unlike that of the original Vandals who assaulted Rome and helped bring down Roman civilization with their wanton pillaging.
|Off Congress St. Portland, Maine|
|Attempting to clean up|
Layers of spray paint don’t bring down a civilization. Rather, they’re a symptom of the underlying decay that brings it down. They’re a sign that those who work to maintain a semblance of order are losing out to those who spread anarchy. As I travel around North America and Europe, the presence or absence of graffiti is my way of taking the temperature of whatever city or country through which I’m traveling. Presence of graffiti is a measure of decline. Lack of effort to clean it up is a measure of cultural despair. Greeks thinking they can live the good life on someone else’s nickel, and thinking they can spray whatever they want on someone else’s property are similar. There’s a connection.
I’m seeing graffiti in more and more places around Portland and it worries me. First it was on boxcars. Watching a train covered with it pass by depressed me. Clearly the railroad company had given up. I used to see it here and there along Forest Avenue and Congress Street, but it wouldn’t remain long before someone cleaned it up or painted over it. Now, however, it’s staying on longer and even being added to. I’ve been seeing the same graffiti for nearly a year and that’s not good. Property owners are responsible to remove it and if they don’t, they’re subject to penalties and fines. But, the will to remove it or to enforce penalties is clearly waning. As the saying goes: The handwriting is on the wall.
As a sixty-four-year-old baby boomer, I was born into a country that had just saved the world from German and Japanese totalitarianism. For that we can thank our parents’ generation, which went on to build the most prosperous, most powerful country the world had ever seen. Unfortunately, my generation began tearing it down, and some of us fear the process can’t be reversed. We cannot be proud of what we’re passing on to our grandchildren.