I HAVE A PLAN TODESTROY AMERICA
By Richard D. Lamm
I have a secret plan to destroy America.If you believe, as many do, that Americais too smug, too white-bread, too self-
satised, too rich, let’s destroy America.
It is not that hard to do.History shows that nations are morefragile than their citizens think. Nonation in history has survived theravages of time. Arnold Toynbee observed that all greatcivilizations rise and they all fall, and that “an autopsy of history would show that all great nations commit suicide.”
So here’s my three-part plan. As you will see, it merely extends
trends already operating in America.
ONE: ECONOMIC DISSIPATION
First, I would get America addicted to debt. Debt is economic
cocaine, and the addiction is deep in the nation’s life. Thebeauty of my plan is that we don’t have to initiate any additional
nation-destroying dysfunctions; they are all in place. We needonly to stand back and watch them complete their work.Look, if you will, at how America is undercutting its own economy and prosperity by debt. It is easy to get a nation addicted to debt. America has only balanced its federal budget eight times since 1935. She haslost the internal strength to restore economic discipline. Few
societies can resist the temptation to pre-spend their children’s
money.Debt is an intergenerational transfer from our children tothe current generation, and they are too young to complain. There are no lobbyists for the future. But once programs andentitlements are put in place, there always develops a massive
number of interests lobbying to preserve and expand them,
particularly for the elderly.
My generation has been very good at cutting taxes whileignoring Milton Friedman’s warning: “If you cut taxes withoutcutting spending, you are not cutting taxes, you are merely
passing them on to your children.” Additionally, my generation
Editor, John AndrewsPrincipled Ideas from the Centennial Institute
Volume 5, Number 5 • May 2013
Publisher, William L. Armstrong
Richard D. Lamm
was Governor of Colorado, 1975-87, and a candidate forPresident in 1996. A University of California law graduate and prolic writer,he currently directs the Institute for Public Policy Studies at the University ofDenver. This essay is adapted from his lecture at Colorado Christian Universityon Feb. 22, 2013.
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P o p u l a t i o n & G l o b a l W a r m i n g C C U B e c k m a n C e n t e r , M a y 1 3 B o o k a t C e n t e n n i a l c c u . o r g
D E B A T E R E S C H E D U L E D :
invented the credit card, and the average American now has
over six credit cards and daily adds to the consumer debt. We have successfully built a debt bomb ready to explode.
Remember, debt at some indeterminable point of ceaselessborrowing creates economic chaos—and economic collapse
preceded Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Lenin’s
Squandering Our Inheritance
Look at the results of just this one nation-destroying factor:
debt. I graduated from high school in 1953 and I inherited the
world’s largest creditor nation. The rest of the world owed usmoney. I am leaving to my children the world’s largest debtor
I inherited an exporting nation, but I am leaving the next
generation an importing nation. I inherited a saving nation,and I am leaving my children a spending nation. I inherited anation that produced more than it consumes, and I am leaving a nation that consumes more than it produces.
I inherited a nation of delayed gratication and I leave a nationconsumed by instant gratication. I inherited a new interstate
highway system and a modern infrastructure, and I am leaving
the next generation an infrastructure that the National Society
of Civil Engineers estimates would cost $3 trillion to bring upto date.My mother and father fought a war and a depressionbut left me with a very small federal debt. Today the
ofcial federal debt is over $16 trillion, but that isalmost a deliberately false gure. It does not consider
the unfunded liabilities that America has incurred.If we ask what are the “gross national promises,” whichincludes obligations like future Social Security and Medicarepayments we are obligated to pay, the amount is closer to $50
to $60 trillion—a staggering amount that is likely beyond our
ability to repay.