Raising the Bar Instead of the Ceiling

Gold Hill Saloon - Virginia City, Nevada

With any luck, by the time this piece is published the political posturing will subside, and the wiser minds in the debt ceiling debate will prevail. The truth be told, this grand experiment in democratic rule was founded on a mix dedication and debt. By 1791, the country owed in excess of 75 million dollars to those creditors who bankrolled her revolution. And with the exception of a two-year period beginning in 1835, the United States has had unsettled obligations ever since Ben and the boys emerged from the Pennsylvania State House to make public their intent to break ties with King George the Third.

While it has always been a popular notion that it is the misdeeds and inefficiencies of government that are the root cause of our unbalanced books, it is in fact, those less than admirable traits in humankind that have left the public holding a rather large unpaid tab. Historically, most of Washington’s deficit spending has been the consequence of military conflict, or the missteps and misappropriations in the marketplace. Perhaps if those at the helm of our economic institutions were a bit less greedy, or if we had a healthcare system that was fair and affordable, or if we could just find a more peaceful way to settle our differences—we might just be able to get our financial house in order.

Abandoned Sluice at Gold Hill

But as I raise a glass of whiskey at the saloon of the Gold Hill Hotel, which sits atop those spent silver veins of the Comstock Lode that helped to finance many bloody Northern campaigns during America’s Civil War, I realize that we are still a ways off from raising the bar on human behavior. So for the foreseeable future, we will remain dependent upon a Congress that raises the ceiling on public debt.

Posted by: Chris Poh

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