Before I start this post, I want to say the reason I’m writing it is that I literally agree with everything John Oliver normally says on Last Week Tonight. But, he said recently did a segment on the national debt that I just kinda’ didn’t agree with on some core parts. I found my disagreement interesting considering the context of it.
That National Debt is a moving target, and I typically follow it using USDebtClock.org (which currently has the US National Debt hovering above $28 Trillion). Yeah… That’s a lot. Let’s talk about it.
Last Week Tonight: The National Debt
I want to share the video first before I say anything.
He makes a lot of good points in the video, and I’m not going to re-hash it — watch the video.
But he does basically make it sound like the National Debt is nothing to worry about.
My Issue: The Tone
Hear me out: No debt is bad until it comes time to pay it.
The difference between me, and an individual, and the United States of America is that it’s a lot easier to make ME pay my debts than it is to make Uncle Sam pay anything. So, I qualify everything I’m about to say with the fact that if worst comes to worst – the U.S. can restructure debt, workout contracts, and (literally) fight their debtors.
He points out that Greece had problems with their National Debt before and that caused issues, but that we’ve already passed that point and we’re fine. Great. But I counter that with Greece is NOT the United States of America. Different economic positioning, different economic weight classes, different credit ratings & histories, different allies, etc.
Just because there hasn’t been a bad outcome YET from out National Debt doesn’t mean that their won’t be, and I just felt like he was entirely too flippant about the issue compared to his normal work.
And I think what genuinely bothered me was the fact that I feel like he’s taking a political position on a non-political issue. Democrat, Republican, or Other – the National Debt impacts the entire country. (Rant coming – and for the record, I tend to vote Democrat + my views are kind of on display all over this site if you know where to look)
I understand that the way of our modern era is that our political parties are locked in battles against each other on nearly every issue and just can’t seem to work together on anything to meaningfully help the most people, but I need someone to be an adult in the room and acknowledge that it’s not ok to rack up the kind of debt we’re driving up as a country. Frankly, I feel like John Oliver sounds incredibly forgiving on this issue because Biden is currently in office and, understandably so, the current levels of actual and proposed spending are bothering a few people, so the sitting President’s image could use a little media image-cover to keep popular opinion in check.
Ok. I get that.
BUT – I can’t help but feel like if this were Trump (who I don’t like, so don’t come after me for this statement), John Oliver’s tone on the issue would be far less forgiving and “Everybody calm down”-ish.
That bothers me. I just want them to call the National Debt what it is no matter who’s in charge: Out of Control. And The U.S. is a country that seems to love having our lifestyle but not paying for it. I say that not because we don’t have everyone entering the military to “protect our interests and freedoms” – but because we literally don’t seem to want to pay taxes for basic universal things or to pay off our National Debt.
It is asinine and frustrating to see play out time and time again, and I just feel like – eventually – it might not be such a hot idea to keep running up the debt and calling it “patriotism” just because interest rates are low (not if we keep spending on some of the BS that we spend on).
I am not an Economist. I don’t even work in a government job. I vote Democrat, but I claim to be a Moderate in most cases. I am not 100% Liberal or Conservative… LIKE A NORMAL PERSON. And like a normal person, I have learned that when I have debt – I eventually have to pay it. I just hope that the U.S. isn’t making too many foolhardy moves simply because we can. I want to see us spend money on a lot of things to help a lot of people, but I also acknowledge that we spend a lot on interests that don’t interest most citizens – and that we don’t seem to be all too keen on the idea of everyone paying their fair share of taxes (e.g. I just did my taxes yesterday and dutifully paid my Federal and State Taxes… How much have some large companies and wealthy individuals had to pay this year?).
“I’mma shut-up, though.”
This is maddening, and I don’t like that John Oliver and the team over at Last Week Tonight essentially just gave it a pass. I hold them to a better standard than that, and it sucks that a lot of people will agree with it and have their opinions influenced just because he said it.
I repeat: No debt is bad until it comes time to pay it.