In this venue I have been perhaps embarrassingly honest about my own past financial mistakes with hopes others might benefit from them. In the past few months, I have also considered a parallel between my experience and our national situation.

In this venue I have been perhaps embarrassingly honest about my own past financial mistakes with hopes others might benefit from them. In the past few months, I have also considered a parallel between my experience and our national situation.

As a young man, I felt quite optimistic about my abilities to succeed financially, especially to work however hard was required. But having been taught well that life is not just about my family and myself, I determined to do it all.

As our family and my income grew along with higher lifestyle, I gave my tithe and supported other charities but financed any shortages with ever-available credit. Despite what my Depression-era parents said and did, this was a new American age to be built upon the optimism and consumption of 70 million boomers moving through life.

But with little margin for error, a few toe stubs began to provide me with heartburn, sleepless nights and a growing realization that wishing things were so was not sufficient to change economic realities. Besides who could have known that kids grew up so quickly and went to college?

Likewise we are a big-hearted nation with a can-do attitude. If there is a problem, we have a will to fix it. We are charitable almost by nature.    After World War II, we provided the cash and manufactured products to rebuild Europe and Japan, an excellent decision. We began to build interstate highways and new communities. However, our government income also grew enough to have paid off much of the enormous government debt (relative to historical levels) within a couple of decades.

Instead we became dedicated to everything from space exploration taking care of citizens from cradle to grave. Social Security went from small supplement to almost living income. We want everyone to have great higher education, great housing, great health care – you name it. President Kennedy’s admonition that we should not ask what the country can do for us seems to fall somewhere between quaint and ridiculous today.

When demand for guns (Vietnam) and butter (the Great Society) led to higher inflation, President Nixon (no fiscal conservative) threw out the dollar-gold link and we declared the dollar would henceforth be worth whatever we say. We still had the economic strength to make it happen. We could print ’em and make the world take ’em.

In theory, none of the things we want are bad. Neither were those that I wanted personally. But my favorite banker finally cut off my water, my credit, and gave me a wakeup call. Over time we killed our retirement assets and downsized, but we finally have paid off thousands in debt. We are almost well. (Thank you, banker friend!)

As a nation, we stand at a similar crossroads. We do not have an income problem, but a spending and wishing problem. Bill Gross, the world’s debt broker and manager of the world’s largest mutual fund, says the U.S. credit binge on cheap terms is over. Now Standard & Poor’s says the same thing.

Treasury Secretary Geithner and Fed Chairman Bernanke take a more sanguine view of our addiction – there will always be more bars we can belly up to. We just need a few more drinks to get us through. So what if we aren’t triple-A risk anymore?

Temporarily the printing press keeps federal debt interest artificially low, but this cannot and will not last very long. Politicians since Roosevelt have inflated their way out of spending problems, but we no longer can set all the world’s rules. As we move toward junk-bond status, the true cost of our slavery to creditors will become apparent, at the pump, at the grocery store, everywhere we turn. This will harm most those with the least income. Our food price inflation is already worsening world starvation.

It is immoral to borrow money we cannot quickly repay in order to redistribute it to ourselves in the name of fairness. It is a nation’s duty to leave a healthy legacy for its grandchildren, not unnecessary trillion-dollar debts. There is no right way to do wrong things, regardless of what we devoutly wish.    I pray that we will wake up in time.