The Debt Reduction Diet

debt reduction
by sunlightfoundation

The Debt Reduction Diet

Copyright (c) 2010 Scott F Paradis

Two thirds of American adults are overweight, nearly one third can be categorized as obese. Obesity among children and adolescents is reaching epidemic proportions. Arguably the only affliction growing faster than our girths is our accumulation of debt. The total debt (government, business and personal) per U.S. citizen is fast approaching $ 180,000.00. Under existing policies the future liability per current taxpayer is over $ 1,000,000.00 (yes that is one million dollars). While we suffer the effects of our excess now, in declining mortality, skyrocketing medical costs, debt service, lost productivity and diminished quality of life, the situation is far more grave for our future. It is time we as a nation take a look in the mirror, accept responsibility for the shape we are in, and set a new course. It is time to initiate a debt reduction diet.

The known contributors to obesity vary: genetic susceptibility, emotional stress (caused by economic or relationship challenges, social isolation, environmental factors), poor nutrition (ranging from empty calories to just pure gluttonous excess), medical conditions (hormonal imbalances, disease) and lack of exercise (caused by lifestyle choices, proliferating technology and just plain laziness).

The known contributors for debt accumulation vary as well: economic necessity, cultural practices encouraging payments over time (mortgages, auto loans, etc.), compensating for diminished resources and declining productivity, government overreach, (for political expediency and to placate special interests), loose monetary policy, loose credit practices, and the list goes on.

The propensity for debt is leveraging optimism for the future, shored up by a system espousing credit at every turn. To rationalize debt people project future earnings growth to offset current expenditures with interest. We mistakenly believe, “Time heals all indulgences – it shall, or we’ll be dead.”

While academics split hairs over the causes and contributions for both obesity and debt, let’s call a spade a spade. It is our human tendency toward comfort and our propensity for excess that has brought us to this place.

America is the land of opportunity. We want “more” and we have devoted limitless effort to ensuring “more” is what people get. Our system promotes and produces the means to satisfy wants and needs. This is how fortunes are made. Unfortunately the success formula we have come to rely on is one of conspicuous consumption – consumption at all costs, despite the consequences. Government and industry (both instruments of the people) have collaborated to create and encourage ever more ways to consume now and pay later. The system has been so effective and the consumer mentality has become so ingrained in our culture that at a moment of national crisis the president of the United States does not call on the people for sacrifice and resolve, he implores them to go to the mall.

Our indulgences have not only made us weak they have made us complacent. Life is not a spectator sport. As we know the causes of our maladies, likewise we know the cures: diet and exercise. We must control what we consume, live within our means, and take action to reshape ourselves and society for a prosperous, productive, adventurous future.

The one and only, time honored, and ultimately all-determining question for personal and fiscal health remains: “Do we have the will to change?”

Real enduring change comes through individuals. But in America, though we have long lost sight of this, the government is the people’s tool.

At the national level the federal debt commissions offer a starting point for fiscal discipline: modify social security, realistically address healthcare, end America’s empire building, focus taxes on consumption and pollution, rewrite the personal and corporate tax code and turn the government into an institution that advances national interests rather than one that undermines them by promoting special interests.

We are in bad shape – physically and fiscally. We bear the responsibility for the condition we are in. We have, however, the opportunity to use the same systems that have accelerated our collective decline to advance our collective well-being. We must work as individuals and a nation to recast ourselves into the top performer we are destined to be. Ours is a nation of dreamers, let’s stop sleepwalking and get to building our dreams.

Scott F. Paradis, author of “Promise and Potential: A Life of Wisdom, Courage, Strength and Will” publishes “Insights” and a free weekly ezine, “Money, Power and the True Path to Prosperity”, subscribe now at

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