National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly

Archives  | 

Send This Page to a Friend

 Today's Take:  NCR's daily Web column
Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news.  It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.

May 27, 2003
Vol. 1, No. 36




Dennis Coday I am a bad dad

Dennis Coday, NCR staff writer

I'm a bad dad. I have jeopardized by family's future. I have so over spent our family budget that we will be in debt long after my sons have reached adulthood. You could quite literally say that I have mortgaged my family's future. What did I do?

I bought a house.

As you can image, the price of the house far exceeds my annual income. So we went to the bank, took out a loan. Now we have a huge debt hanging over our heads. Some of you may be wondering how I could have done such a thing.

Well, I had some justifications. We are new to this area, so we had to live some place. Interest rates have been at historically low levels. The payments should be manageable. But still, we have 30 years of monthly payments hanging over our heads, not to mention the insurances, taxes and upkeep.

But wait a minute. Is what I did really bad? Was I acting irresponsibly? Obviously not. A house is a good investment (generally speaking). It will provide a safe haven (and big back yard) for my kids for a long time. It grounds us in a neighborhood and a community. Our property taxes will pay for schools and local administration. Our vested interest in the community will encourage our participation in local events. (We're already planning how we can join the city's recycling drive.)

For sure, we are in debt for a long time to come, but this is not bad debt. This is good debt.

These thoughts were running through my mind over the last weekend as I read reports about Congress's tax cut plan. Talk about the plan — I won't call it debate because it really wasn't; everyone knew the president was going to get tax cuts the only question was how much. Talk of the plan centered on economic stimulus and how much money it would put into people's hands how fast.

Too little talk about the plan focused on what would be cut to pay for this package. And good things, important programs are being cut (See Joe >Joe Feuerherd's Today's Take of May 15, for one example). Too few people in Congress talked about how to use the money we tax payers entrust our government with to invest in the future of our country and its myriad communities.

The plan is about quick returns and fast bucks. It is not about investing in the future.

It is commonly believed that nobody likes to pay taxes. Why not? Think about this a little bit. What's really so bad about paying taxes? Are they really too high? Think about that next time you're driving late at night in a car engineered to meet federal safety standards on a well constructed, well lit road that's not strewn with garbage. Think about it when you pass a school. Think about it when you can drink the water from your tap and not worry about dysentery.

Talk about this latest tax plan and so much budget planning in recent years has focused on "getting government off our backs" and not about pressuring Congress to put our tax dollars to work. That's what investment counselors tell you. Don't sit on your money, put it to work. That's what my banker told me about my house payments.

Some would say that the government budget deficit is too high, so we do need to cut programs. I'll concede that we do need to be prudent, but we can distinguish between good debt and bad debt. Businesses do that all the time. Businesses borrow money to fund expansion or to ensure adequate liquidity. Families (like mine) go into debt to buy houses. That is good debt. Businesspeople call that investment.

Top of Page   | Home
Copyright © 2003 The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64111 
TEL:  1-816-531-0538   FAX:  1-816-968-2280