If a picture is worth a thousand words then this one sent to me from a friend says everything about the national debt we're passing along to our children. When we pass along this much debt to our children, how can we expect them to earn a quality education and to prosper?
The best things we can do to leave a prosperous future for the next generation is to 1) manage our personal budget and finances in a responsible way, and 2) hold all public agencies to the same standard.
By the way, the national debt is now estimated to be over $40,000 for every man, woman and child, which you can find at http://www.usdebtclock.org/.
David Walker, former comptroller of the United States, in the documentary movie I.O.U.S.A. said
"I will argue that the most serious threat to the United States is not someone hiding in a cave in Afghanistan or Pakistan, but our own fiscal irresponsibility."
America enjoyed a long streak of prosperity after WWII. That prosperity enabled our educational system and social programs that benefit many people. But prosperity comes from adhering to prudent fiscal principles - not from luck, hope or ignorance. These principles require making sacrifices in difficult times. When our country prospered we shared, but when we struggled we tightened our belts.
If we want future generations to enjoy generous programs it starts with a solid financial foundation. Solving budget problems in our country, states, cities and schools requires that we all work toward a goal of accomplishing the most with the limited resources we have. Yes, we have to cut expenses everywhere, and everyone must bring concessions to the table. Programs will be lost, salaries will be cut, expectations for the future will be lowered - but hoping to solve the problem without sacrifice is foolish thinking and irresponsible.
In politics, fiscal conservatives are often pitted against social progressives. I would argue that these are not diametrically opposed objectives, but that they go hand-in-hand. Great social programs are funded as a result of prosperity, which comes through sound fiscal management.
The sacrifices we make today will ultimately result in great programs coming back in a sustainable way. For the little girl in this picture and all other children, this is the best legacy we can leave - fiscal and social responsibility.