This essay won an honorable mention in the NeXt essay contest on the question: What is the greatest challenge facing your generation?
They say it's all about the money. That money makes the world go round, that everyone has his price. And it's true, in a way. Money is what lubricates the business of the world. The possession of money grants great power to the one in control. Just look at Bill Gates, for example. As the richest man in the world, Bill Gates has the power to help people - a power he's exercised by helping those in Third World countries oceans away from him. But the reverse is true: the lack of money implies a severe lack of power. Medieval serfs, for example, had nothing - they didn't even own the land they farmed - and as a result, they had very little power over their lives. This theme, that money and power have a direct relationship (when one increases, the other does the same), applies not only to people but to nations. When a nation is poor, the influence it wields in the world is insignificant. Wealthier nations have much greater world prestige.
The United States of America is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Its GDP (the net worth of all services and goods produced by a nation in a single year) in 2005, according to the International Monetary Fund, was $12,277,583,000,000. That's an incredibly vast sum, implying that the United States is extremely wealthy. And it is - if you consider the United States to be what its Constitution defines it as (its people) as opposed to what common sense defines it as (its government). While the people of the United States may be extremely wealthy, its government certainly is not. To be rich, an entity must possess money. And this is something the United States doesn't have. Quite the reverse, actually. The U.S. government is in the red - and not just a little bit, like when you accidentally write a check that exceeds the amount in your account, or when you accept one of those "Don't Pay For Three Months!" deals. No. The U.S. debt is approximately $8.7 trillion. Yes, that's trillion, with a "tr." To pay this off, every single citizen of America (from the auto workers to the single moms to the retired seniors to the newborn babies) would have to pay $29,141.34. It's getting worse, too. Every single day, the debt increases by $1.79 billion. That's like taking six bucks out of every American's pocket, every day. A few thousand years ago, there was a different wealthy and prestigious nation, a different leader of the world. It was called the Roman Empire. It was doing pretty well for a while, but then it collapsed pretty rapidly - its decline owing to terrible leadership, corrupt politicians, national debt, frivolous war, and of course,
those pesky barbarians to the north. The United States shares many of Rome's problems (save one - those Canadians may be crazy when it comes to hockey, but they're considerably laid-back when compared to the Visigoths). Is the United States headed down the path to destruction, just like Rome? Or is a debt projected to soon exceed $9 trillion just a trifle we don't need to worry about? It's hard to say now, but it's a question that will have to be resolved soon, just when my generation takes the lead on the world stage.