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Our Children, Grandchildren, and the National Debt

by Nancy Werking Poling

Mountaintop Removal

Image by IdaStewie via Flickr

Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. Our country’s leaders are REALLY worried about our children’s and grandchildren’s future. Hence the appointment of the Supercommittee, twelve experts in matters of money. There’s only one woman, though historically women have been responsible for making sure families are fed and clothed, and are, hence, experts at stretching a limited amount of money. But I digress. This committee of very intelligent and experienced people was appointed because we don’t want to pass a national debt—is it 14, 15, trillion dollars?—on to our children and grandchildren. The GOP website states, “If nothing is done, our generation will have the sad legacy of being the first to lower the standard of living of the next generation” (

While I certainly want to relieve my children and grandchildren of the heavy burden of repaying this debt, what good is it if they have money but lack the following?

1)     Clean air to breath and clear water to drink. Yet we hear calls for dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency. How quickly we’ve forgotten the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill of 2010, Massey Energy’s 60,000 violations of the Clean Water Act within a six year period. Republican legislators oppose efforts to prevent oil-fired power plants from emitting dangerous toxins into the air. Regulations, they say, cost jobs.

2)     A safe food supply and access to basic medical care. Yet Republicans are calling for the repeal of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and trying to weaken the power of the FDA and the Department of Agriculture.

3)     A solid education that will allow them to become leaders in ingenuity and production. Yet pledges not to increase taxes are forcing teacher layoffs, denying schools the resources they need for effective teaching, making increased class size necessary.

4)     An understanding of what the song, “America the Beautiful,” refers to. Yet deforestation and mountaintop removal for coal—which, yes, provide jobs—destroy our nation’s beauty. There are calls for the privatization of our national parks. Who will stop businesses, whose goal is profitability, from opening parks to logging and mining interests, then walking away when resources have been depleted?

If we are truly concerned about our children’s and grandchildren’s future, let’s bequeath them a quality of life, a “standard of living,” that insures health and learning. Let’s leave them a country that is beautiful from “sea to shining sea.”

Nancy Werking Poling  is author of Had Eve Come First and Jonah Been a Woman and Out of the Pumpkin Shell.

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