Every month a local group of middle-aged women business owners, former corporate executives, and non-partisan taxpayers comes together to break bread and engage in civil discourse. Our only rules are to avoid bloodshed, lawsuits, and white zinfandel. This week’s conversation took a surprising turn when one woman said she had been researching other countries as potential places in which to retire. I almost choked on my American beef kabobs, Idaho potato cakes, and Walla Walla wine.
“I’ve researched Canada,” she said. “There also are huge expatriate communities in Mexico, Panama, and Ecuador. I know millions of immigrants want to enter our country, but statistics show that at least 3 million citizens are leaving every year.”
The ensuing conversation acknowledged an appreciation for our coming of age during the best of times. We had taken advantage of opportunities and had succeeded in careers, enjoyed loving relationships, raised our children, survived betrayal and pain, and donated time, talent, and money to several charities and political campaigns. Now we wanted to embrace the last third of life on our own terms. If that meant slurping sweet drinks with little umbrellas on the beach in Belize, so be it.
The national debt was one of the main reasons for considering expatriation. One colleague noted that the US government is almost $17 trillion in debt and that debt did not include unfunded liabilities for federal employee retirement benefits, obligations for Social Security payments, and Medicare expenses. Adding those programs to the National Debt would give a debt of $215,311 to every person living in the USA.
“A country or a business or a family cannot survive under massive debt,” said another woman, the owner of a multi-million-dollar company. “I don’t want to arbitrarily lift any debt ceiling. If I want to increase expenditures, I first need to make more revenue while reducing expenses. Incompetent government leaders don’t understand that basic business concept.”
Our more progressive companion countered with an opposing view. She offered facts from economists and political scientists that said the modern national debt wasn’t a cause for worry. The experts claimed a large growth in national debt promoted a more prosperous economy. For example, the national debt during World War 11 was twice the size of today’s debt. The spending helped the country get out of the Great Depression and enjoy sustained economic growth during the 50s and 60s, an era that produced wonderful opportunities and events – including our births.
We nodded while we munched on beet salad with toasted goat cheese made from local farm products and sipped Dunham Cabernet from Washington State. During a lull in the conversation, we glanced outside and noticed the splendid mosaic of red, yellow, and orange leaves dancing to the ground in a final farewell to life. We were aware that we’ve seen more summer days than we’ll see again. We don’t have the ability or energy to save our troubled country, and we’re weary of politicians who fiddle and fight as the country burns. Maybe it’s time to plan a vacation in the tropics and study the local real estate.
Today’s blog was fueled by a 2011 Prisoner red blend wine from Napa Valley. It’s ripe, hearty, and available at Crush Wine Bar in Eagle for about $30. And, I’m only kidding about leaving the USA. I love this country and the passionate freedoms it embraces. But, a temporary stay on a warm beach would be a lovely distraction from all the political crap.