“Stupid is as stupid does.”

That bit of wisdom came from that great philosopher, Forrest Gump. However, that doesn’t matter. The idea can be traced back for centuries. It’s an appropriate commentary on today’s – and tomorrow’s – national debt …. and that debt just rose again.

Congress keeps increasing that financial burden on our grandchildren, their grandchildren and on and on and on. There’s a lot of talk about the debt but it falls on deaf ears. It’s now more than $23 trillion and it keeps growing.

It’s not all the fault of Congress alone. It also can be attributed to many able-bodied Americans who keep demanding “free stuff” and upkeep from cradle to grave. If that’s not a definition of stupid is as stupid does, what is? President Ronald Reagan put it in a simple and proper perspective. “We don’t have a trillion-dollar debt because we haven’t taxed enough. We have a trillion-dollar debt because we spend too much.”

It’s not like we haven’t been warned from the beginning. Founding Fathers rang the Bell of Freedom. Circumstances might have demanded a waiver once in a while, but generally, they set the proper tone. It took French historian Alex de Tocqueville to point out an historic truth. “The American republic will endure,” he warned, “until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” He wrote that after traveling and studying early America.

Does that ring any bells? Benjamin Franklin put it in terms anyone can understand: “A penny saved is a penny earned.” How difficult is that for today’s Congress to comprehend?

Other words paint a factual and worrisome picture of today’s debt. George Washington offered sage advice, that leaders should avoid expense and debt and should pay the bills themselves and not leave them for posterity. Other Founding Fathers reiterated that sentiment, from Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, to John Adams, to Alexander Hamilton, to James Madison, Father of the Constitution, to Samuel Adams; indeed to a long list of brave and honorable men:

“The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” – Thomas Jefferson.

“If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare … the powers of Congress would subvert the very foundation, the very nature of the limited government established by the people of America.” – Madison.

Others, through the years, have lent strong support to government stability. President Grover Cleveland, the only president to serve two nonconsecutive terms, stated that “Though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.” Where did we fail?

There is no excuse for this or any nation to continue to violate the principles of common sense in increasing the public debt year after year. Despite the wisdom of our founders, and others many times over, our elected “leaders” are not following their sensible advice. Not all of them, of course, but at least it seems a majority of them work over time to “take care of the folks back home.” Taking care, meaning spending public money to win votes and elections … and stay in power.

The warnings from Washington, Jefferson and the rest on spending and increasing the country’s debt were as clear as could be: Don’t! Those men that gave birth to American liberty also did not advocate having professional politicians like we now have. The so-called representatives of the people have failed to heed good advice. Instead, they have proved Alex de Tocqueville to be clairvoyant.

Collins lives in Greenwood and is retired from the Index-Journal where he served in several capacities, to include as the paper’s executive editorial editor.