Crushing debt

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Have we dodged it, or merely delayed a reckoning that we’ll have to face in the future anyway?

To hear our federal and provincial governments talk about it, everything’s fine at home. There are economic problems, but they’re all imported. Woes in Europe and the United States are reducing sales and tax revenues, but the fundamentals are good and we’re supposed to be a rare commodity — a nation that’s somehow avoided the real problems of the international financial collapse.

That might be a nice sentiment.

But everything’s not fine at home.

At home, Canadians are carrying more consumer debt than ever before, and instead of worrying about that, with each passing month we dig ourselves in deeper.

Our governments aren’t immune from that either. We’re living in the shadow of a growing deficit in this province, despite windfall oil revenues, and we’re preparing (for better or worse) for substantial new debt.

Federally, it looks like we have unlearned every lesson we ever had about belt tightening — while letting corporate tax rates shrink and corporate coffers grow.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) issued a news release Friday that said Canada’s debt clock is about to reach a frightening milestone.

At three seconds before 11:19 p.m. tonight, the nation’s debt will cross the $600-billion mark, a sign that, in the world of financing today with tomorrow’s dollars, we’re certainly keeping up with the Joneses. Heck, we passed those Joneses and bought ourselves an outdoor pool, no payments until 2014.

The truth is, people talk tough about government spending — about restraint in general — unless it is actually going to apply to themselves. People want savings, but they don’t want hospital wait times to increase, don’t want to see potholes on the road, expect snowplows on the highway at all times and expect their quality of life to be maintained.

It’s everyone else’s belts that are supposed to feel that critical tightening, while individuals let theirs out a notch or two.

But the scariest part of where our national debt is now isn’t today’s $600-billion milestone. It isn’t even the way our debt is increasing by $74 million every single day, although that’s scary enough. It’s not even that the federal government expects deficit spending to stretch out for years.

The scariest part, especially for those who remember the late 1990s and the heartaches of that particular period of layoffs and downsizing, is that all that hard work has vanished.

“After a decade of Canadians paying down our debt, reducing it by more than $100 billion dollars between 1997 and 2008, the Harper government has borrowed back every penny and more,” CTF federal director Gregory Thomas writes. “As of (today), the Harper government will have added $142.4 billion to our national debt, taking it past the $600 billion mark.”

And the debts keep piling up.

We have to temper our expectations — our

personal expectations and the expectations we have of our governments. Or else our expectations are going to temper our future — and our children’s futures as well.

Organizations: Joneses

Geographic location: Europe, United States, Canada

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Recent comments

  • R Gary C
    November 24, 2012 - 17:22

    Well, Harper complained about the LIberals with a Surplus. Imagine that, complaining about a surplus! Attack ads can get you power, but you still have to govern! "Everybody that looks at this... says that this approach to the GST may be good politics, but it's stupid economics" - a quote by then Finance Minister Ralph Goodale. Following is a quote by Stephen Harper: "I believe that all taxes are bad. It's always good to keep taxes down." OK, Stephen, now how are you going to balance the budget?????????

  • crista
    November 24, 2012 - 09:56

    we here what you are saying but what are you surpose to do you beat down one wall they put up another wall ,when you go to the government and you got the proof it's like talking to some one that can not see you and then they come after like you are the criminal and they think them are getting away with it they are fooling there selves but that is not much good to the world and it is not good for society????

  • Skeptical Cynic
    November 24, 2012 - 09:54

    Those who foolishly live beyond their means in a self-indulgent, vanity-driven attempt to merely "keep up with the Jones" and thereby wind up so far in the hole that they have to have sunshine piped into them... have only themselves to blame for their unfortunate predicament.

  • david
    November 24, 2012 - 09:21

    Canadians? You're worried about "Canadians"?! Here we are, with a debt run up on decades of having no economy, and we're now in the process of using the money that we'll only see ONCE IN ETERNITY, plus billions more of NEW debt, and spending it on a pipedream dam that appears to be no more than a huge bet at the craps table...... and you're worried about "Canadians"?!

    • John Smith
      November 26, 2012 - 08:49

      you are funny...I love reading you're funny comments...please keep it up...absolutely it...Oh, and so reek of credibility...

  • Maurice E. Adams
    November 24, 2012 - 09:01

    And we plan to double, unnecessarily, our debt. Unbelievable.

  • Harvey
    November 24, 2012 - 08:16

    Gov't (politicians) views....So what , as long as I get elected !!!....I want another term or two to fatten me wallot more and make sure that MY pension is bigger than yours. When that's done you can enjoy looking at my back.