Monday, July 18, 2011

Our Words Matter: The National Debt Debate Gets Personal

The recent public debates about our national debt have reminded me of a very important lesson:  our words matter.

Truly, I do not know enough about economics to even have an opinion on what we as a nation should be doing about our debt right now.

But in speaking with a gentleman on a fixed income who relies on his monthly check to survive and who was genuinely frightened that his check might not come this month, I was reminded yet again how very much what we say matters to others.

Politicians and others on all sides of the debate have filled the airwaves with threats of government shut-down and of the government running out of money to pay its bills, including the ‘bill’ owed to those who receive monthly government checks under a myriad of programs.

This talk was not even a ripple in my own personal pond as I believed such talk to be hyperbole, an exaggeration to get attention.  But that’s an easy position for me: I do not receive a monthly check controlled by those threatening that the money has run out.

I am reminded of the boy who cried wolf: how will we the people know when there’s a genuine crisis if every political disagreement is couched as one?  And if there was no crisis this time, why would we allow people in genuine need to be so frightened that they must worry where their next meal will come from?

Musn’t we take better care not to become monsters in our effort to win the point?  Shouldn’t we remember that people are actually listening to what we say?  Shouldn’t we do better by them?


  1. As someone who regularly receives five payments from the government - and they are the only income for our family - I try to remember that most of this is just saber rattling. My husband is a retired Air Force officer who is partially disabled, who also is a retire civil servant, and we both get Social Security. We feel like we earned/contributed the money for all these checks we get, and we've trusted that if everything else went under, at least the Federal Government would provide.

    From my mouth to God's years!

  2. Political posturing makes it hard to know who to believe. I'd like to have an opinion, but honestly I am just too confused. Perhaps that is their real intent after all.

  3. Abbie, Good reminder on the sabre-rattling - what is sticking with me now is how very sad it is that it never occurred to me to really believe them. What a sad state of affairs that is! But there are people who have been genuinely shaken by all the talk. Helps me to remember to think a bit more before I open my own mouth - hope so anyway. I'll keep praying that indeed, those, like you and your family, to whom the government owes a debt and has made a promise, will be honored and kept.