Blessed Are the Young For They Shall Inherit the National Debt
Often times when people on the left decry a particular policy initiative, be it military spending, energy subsidies, or tax cuts which they somehow equate to spending, they say that the money should have gone to the welfare of real people in need—that the money would be better spent elsewhere. The problem with this kind of reasoning in an age of deficit spending is that it ignores the elephant in the room. We don’t have the government revenues to spend in the first place.
Our national debt totals somewhere around six-hundred billion dollars. That’s not counting provincial or municipal debt for which we, as future or current net taxpayers, are beholden. The federal debt was growing at an average rate of $669 per second around April 1st, 2012 according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and that is down considerably from the rate before the Conservative majority was elected, albeit still disgustingly fast.
Advocates for carbon pricing and an acknowledgement of environmental externalities and ecological services in our economic framework argue that we are bankrupting future generations by degrading our resources and not paying the full costs of our current lifestyle. They note that our descendants will have to pay the costs of our current excess. But what is analogous on the environmental question is literal, tangible, and present on the fiscal one. If that call to arms is appropriate on issues of natural resource stewardship, surely it must also ring true on matters of fiscal stewardship for which our ancestors will not hypothetically, but in hard reality have to pay.
Except we are those descendents, the young; we are the future of Canada. So why do youth-oriented political organizations pay so little attention to the fiscal future of our nation? Rock the Vote BC, for example, a supposedly non-partisan group funded by the Canadian Federation of Students interested in steering the conversation leading up to the provincial election to be held in the province this May, focuses on education and environmental programs, increased funding for advanced education, and the forgiving of student loans. All of these cost money, and are no doubt programs that appeal to many young Canadians. Sustainability is a word that is thrown around a lot, but little attention is paid to the sustainability of our government’s fiscal position. We won’t be very capable of addressing environmental issues if the country goes bankrupt.
Deficits have become a norm. People will discuss “good debt” which is investment in infrastructure or stimulus that leads to economic growth and thus to increased tax revenues, and no economy can become developed without such investments. Although I agree that public spending on natural monopolies such as infrastructure is necessary and good, such spending is impeded by ever growing interest payments. Though we need an indefinite amount of time to pay down our debt, that time comes at a price and the opportunity cost of this price may not be worth the gains got by thereby accruing especially when “good” spending isn’t the only reason for its accumulation. There is a lot of sink spending that can and should be cut before we have to worry about addressing our deficit spending and debt cutting into future revenues. These interest payments will only get larger and take a larger portion of our GDP to pay off if we do not begin to address them now. Before we can start the great projects of our generation, we need to pay for the sins of our fathers.
Christopher Samsom is a native conservative British Columbian. He has studied in Turkey, worked in agriculture his whole life, and has a passion for exploring how faith, farm and freedom play out in the public lives of the Twenty-First century’s young people. He is a regular contributor to CANYAP.
The opinions expressed by this article not necessarily those of CANYAP.