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What credit sharks can teach us about big government

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi

Sometime back, my husband and I sat down for the dreaded budget talk. We began to experiment with a new program where the basics of debt, budgeting and spending were broken down into real dollars and cents. Pun intended. We dove in head first to the litany of CD lectures and workbook lesson plans. Before we knew it, we were harnessed with some real common sense solutions to our once insurmountable hurdles. We were euphoric. Then came the credit-card lesson.

One of the primary tenants of our new budget included the crucial step of suspending our credit and destroying our cards. We had both known that this portion of the lesson was coming. The voice on the CD started in on the dangers of credit and the havoc it had wreaked across America. He spoke of debt and our societal penchant for borrowing. Valid points, yes. But these were all things that we had already known and, thus far, they had proved an insufficient deterrent to credit. But then he tapped into something that has forever altered my way of viewing credit, credit card companies and the role that they have been playing in my life.

“They're just salesmen trying to get your money.” I had never looked at it that way before. Salesmen? I had always been the one seeking admissions into their club, not the other way around. He continued.  When was the last time, as customers, we had walked into our neighborhood Best Buy and begged the salesman’s permission for an ink cartridge purchase? Further imagine our reaction were the salesman only willing to sell us the ink once he had determined our credit worthy of the purchase?  We would, of course, consider the salesman’s behavior absurd. That is, however, precisely what my husband and I had been doing for the past decade or more. Like so many others, we had bought into the notion that the credit card companies were in charge, that they were the ones whose attention and approval were required. We had completely forgotten that we were the customers, the ones with the goods, their bread and butter. And suddenly, as if a veil had been lifted, we no longer wanted what they were selling.

A similar sort of epiphany manifested in the fall of 2009. Among a growing collection of frustrated Americans, the veil of dependence began to lift.  Beneath it, a revolutionary sort of civic awareness began to blossom. From that point until now, various compilations of activists have continued to swell.  Like the backward relationship credit card dealers had convinced us we were slave to, a growing Federal Government had been doing much the same for better part of the past century.  I had been duped by my credit card companies and our nation had been duped by wayward leaders, driven by their pursuit of personal power rather than an allegiance to the United States Constitution. But since that infamous August Recess, a civic awakening has begun to rock the American political landscape in much the same way my family’s personal shift in credit understanding has transformed our spending. 

What my husband and I gained from our budget lectures was nothing tremendously mind-blowing.  For the most part, it was a call to common sense.  When broken down, the phrase “common sense” suggests most of us possess it.  It is logic common among each of us.  Over the course of the past year it appears many Americans have begun to question the legitimacy of bloated government and in its confiscation of individual states rights.  Thomas Paine tapped into that same line of logic in 1776 when the British were burdening the colonies with their abusive powers.   And like today, common sense told them that nothing would change unless they demanded it.  As it is often said, “If not now, when?  If not here, where?  If not us, who?”

Far too frequently, our need for self preservation limits our appreciation for God’s greater purpose.  Most of us find ourselves lost in a pursuit than begins at our birth and ends at our death.  But God is much bigger than our life span and his plan much greater than our finite worlds.  Many of us still believe in God’s great purpose for this country.  But just as the Founders played their crucial part, so too must we.  They laid the groundwork for limited government with us in mind.  Now it is our turn to preserve it for those to come.  With freedom comes great responsibility and I am tired of enslaving myself to masters with no real power.  Are you?