“Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.” – 2 Corinthians 12:14
“Grandma?” the girl began. “I have a question.”
“What can I help you with sweetheart?”
“Well, it’s about Medicare – you know, the program where we pay for your procedures and medicines.”
“Yes,” said grandma hesitantly. “But you really shouldn’t phrase it that way.”
“Why not?” asked the girl innocently.
“Well, because we aren’t paying for my medicines, we’re paying for a –”
“Oh, you’re right grandma,” the girl corrected herself, “I should have said borrowing. And that’s my question – shouldn’t we pay for your medicines now, while you are alive?”
“We? Now?” said grandma with slight recoil. “I think you are too young to understand, don’t worry about these things. We pay into a system you see, it’s all very complicated. But don’t worry sweetheart, this same system will be available for you when you are older.”
“You mean, I will indebt my grandchildren just as you have indebted me?”
“Yes, too young to understand,” said grandma, the curl of her lip revealing what could be a smile. “You know you can trust grandma right? My generation is not stealing from yours, it just seems that way because you’re young. In 10, maybe 20 years, we’ll talk more about it then. Goodnight honey.”
“Have you ever saved money to pay for the medicine program that you voted in?”
“You ask too many questions my dear. If you must know, then you will have to go look somewhere else… But I really would rather you close your eyes now…”
“I have looked,” the girl started, and then thought to herself, “maybe I can pay off her debts…” After a quick calculation, she resigned herself to a life devoted not only to providing for the next generation but also the previous ones… Settling into her ill-gotten fate, she continued, “Ok grandma, but can you tell me why? I just want to be sure I don’t make the same mistakes you did, that’s all. How come you borrowed so much money during your life, more than you could ever possibly pay while you’re alive?”
“My dear, whatever do you mean? I don’t owe anybody anything.”
“I know you don’t.. it’s just that I do now, and I haven’t even started working yet. To be honest grandma, and maybe I shouldn’t say anything – but it seems strange to me that, even decades after you go to heaven, I will still be…. paying for you. Is that how a family is supposed to do it? I spend my life trying to pay for you… and then, when I’m a grandma… I vote for someone who will in debt my children to pay for me? It seems –”
“Really child, it is so late you may see light soon. You really should stop asking these questions and go back to sleep.”
“But Grandma, I read our family is in debt over 15,000,000 million dollars… and there are only 306 million of us total – that’s including you, me, and others who can’t or don’t work, including everybody?! This means our family owes… oh my God grandma, this can’t be true, can it?!”
“Well yes, it’s true. But don’t you worry dear, God will provide for you,” grandma replied, grabbing her dentures off the nightstand and inserting her teeth into her mouth.
“Hmm…” the girl thought for a moment, and then offered. “Wouldn’t a better system be one in which we saved during our own lifetimes to pay for ourselves? One in which we didn’t borrow? Wouldn’t that be a better way to run a family?”
“Sweetheart,” her grandma said as she looked over to her, “you really must stop asking these questions. Please go back to sleep.”
“But Grandma, it’s hard for me to sleep, knowing that with every minute our family owes more and more and I will have to pay for it. The debt’s interest alone is becoming our largest expense. Shouldn’t we stop doing this?”
“But I’m still alive my dear. You wouldn’t want your lovely grandma to not get her medicines and procedures now would you – of course not. Now off to bed sweetheart, it’s late.”
“Of course I want you to get your medicines grandma – it’s not that I don’t care about you. It’s just that I want to love my grandchildren… and if I’m to do that… Oh Grandma, I can try to pay for you for all my life, but I don’t want to leave my grandchildren in debt. Grandma, I don’t like this system at all! Wouldn’t a better system be one where I save for my own medicines? I really do want to take care of myself – I can’t imagine a heaven where I look down to see my children and grandchildren working every day to pay for me. That would be horrible! Anything but that – loving a child and then forcing them to slave their entire lives to pay for me… oh my soul, it could never rest like that, I can’t imagine it.”
“You can and you will,” her grandma said flatly. “Now seriously, I must insist you stop this line of questioning or there will be hell to pay. You are supposed to sleep now, you’ll see the game when you get older… er, I mean, you’ll understand later my sweet child.”
“I won’t Grandma – I see now. I’ll never want this for my grandchildren, I’d rather die first. Am I alone, or have others in our family ever tried to put the children first? Have we ever tried to make it so that our family had to balance its budget?
“Ok, if you insist. Yes. Yes, they did try… since the beginning they’ve tried. In fact, it was Thomas Jefferson’s one regret. But with enemies on all sides, what could they do but borrow? In 1999 they almost succeeded, but fell one vote short in the Senate – just one vote short, can you imagine? Oh, so close they were to defeating me. So close… and now my dear, you can’t say that I didn’t warn you… you really do ask too many questions.”
“Wow Grandma, what big eyes you have… what big teeth you have…”
“I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government. I mean an additional article taking from the Federal Government the power of borrowing. I now deny their power of making paper money or anything else a legal tender. I know that to pay all proper expenses within the year would, in case of war, be hard on us. But not so hard as ten wars instead of one. For wars could be reduced in that proportion; besides that, the State governments would be free to lend their credit in borrowing quotas.” – Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, 1798.