Just how much the previous factors have contributed to our status as a debtor nation is not altogether clear. However, no one argues that we have not earned that designation. Measured both by the people who live here and the government that leads us, we have watched the exponential rise of indebtedness at nearly every level of our society.
National Debt. Just how much debt do we owe as a nation? As of today, the number is nearly $15.7 trillion which means that if each citizen of the United States took an equal share, each of us would owe just over $50,000. A National Review Online article by Carrie Lukas, back in September 2011 when the debt was then $14.2 trillion, put the problem in perspective. This way, the average citizen can see just how deep our hole is and how badly we are addressing it if we ever hope to reverse the downward spiral into even more debt.
U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
Federal budget: $3,820,000,000,000
New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000
National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
Recent [April 2011] budget cut: $ 38,500,000,000
Let’s remove 8 zeros and pretend it’s a household budget:
Annual family income: $21,700
Money the family spent: $38,200
New debt on the credit card: $16,500
Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
Budget cuts: $385
Does that seem like a healthy way to manage money? Not really! But does that give you a better idea of the precarious nature of our financial status as a nation?
Household/Personal Debt. So, from the national to the individual, what can we determine. Not sure each of us can afford to arrange to pay our share of the $50,000 toward the national debt? No problem, we can arrange to borrow at least some of it. In a CNNMoney article by Blake Ellis in January 2012, three amazing statistics stand out—1) the average credit card balance was just over $6500 (and the average number of credit cards per household is nine!); 2) the average mortgage debt was just under $174,000; and 3) the average car debt was about $15,500!
Before we blame the high cost of food, consider that in the United States we spend only about 6% of our income food (compared with a third world nation like Kenya which spend 45% on food, Brazil spends about 25% and France spends about 14%). Even though it is considered to be unhealthy to one’s budget to spend more than 30% on rent or mortgage, more than 18.6 million households spend more than 50% on housing.
What Happened? Before this gets more depressing, let’s consider how this problem developed. Some major issues jump to the front of the line that help explain what has happened. Entitlement thinking begins with the assumption that we have a right to whatever we want when we want it—not matter what the cost or whether or not we can afford it. There is always a way in a credit based culture to afford anything…for a while! Materialism and greed constantly work on us to convince us that what we need and want are justifiable and the word ‘enough’ applies only to other people. Presumption tells us that financial principles do not apply in our situation and that if we can defer payments long enough, we will be able to get away with our current poor decision-making. Discipline has fallen on hard times and the idea of saying ‘no’ to yourself seldom occurs to this generation. And last of all, contentment is considered passé because that depends on a choice to be satisfied with God’s provision, something that can be built only on a foundation of trust that He is sufficient for all that we could ever want or need.
A debtor nation faces collapse unless something reverses its course into oblivion. Returning to biblical principles of how to be good stewards of all that He has entrusted to our care is the only way to restore what has been lost.
A Declining Nation
The six ways I believe the United States is struggling lead me to conclude that we are in a state of decline—morally, financially, spiritually, intellectually, directionally we are on a collision course with a very dangerous future.
The deep divisions that separate us emerge periodically to remind us that we are far from a united group of people even though we are still states united functionally if not fundamentally. The divide between those who favor abortion versus those who are pro-life—those who insist on full acceptance of homosexuality versus those who base their view on the Scriptural teaching that it is sexual sin just as certainly as other types of sexual sin (adultery, fornication, etc.)—those who want more governmental control and those who demand less—those who hate the intrusion of spiritual language and values into the public square and those who cannot imagine such debates without core beliefs giving substance to the issues—those who are blind to racial and socio-economic injustice and those who cannot escape its ugliness in the daily affairs of their lives. Yes, we are divided.
Over a decade ago, on September 11, 2001, the people of the United States united for a brief moment while we reconsidered what really mattered and realized that our points of agreement are worth preserving more than clinging to our points of disagreement. Then the immediate crisis ended and we went back to our sides of the dividing walls and hunkered down once again. We who believe that Jesus Christ is the answer—a national revival of spiritual life, a return to the propositional truths of the Bible and a humble repentance before a gracious Savior offer the only lasting solution. So we invest ourselves in the work of the kingdom as well as live for the glory of Christ in the land. We seek the welfare of the city and nation because God told us this is good and right. Those indifferent to or antagonistic toward God want nothing to do with that and so we pray and serve and wait and love—for the glory of Christ and the good of others and leave the results in His hand.
One day He will return and make all things right…all things new! He will establish His reign over all things and every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Until then, we will not despair or be discouraged—we will not lose hope or become anxious—we will rise up and with thanksgiving rejoice in the blessings we enjoy in this land, knowing that our citizenship belongs elsewhere. May the Lord revive us and restore us and raise up a new generation of those who live for the praise of His name in all things!