These days, “sustainability” is a hot word, generally used in conjunction with other words like environmental, renewable, or resources. Many politicians have fully embraced the idea of sustainability as it relates to the environment, citing our responsibilities as stewards of the Earth and the need to leave a clean and healthy place for the next generation to live. But, many of the same voices who crusade for environmental sustainability have not been able to apply the same kind of forethought to our country’s fiscal sustainability.
To the left, those who espouse theories on ways to achieve environmental sustainability, even when it eliminates jobs for American workers, are described as “green” and seen as heroic crusaders for environmental justice. However, anyone who uses the same kind of reasoning to support a theory on how to achieve fiscal sustainability is described as a radical extremist and dismissed as heartless and ignorant, and if they do anything that may be perceived as threatening to American jobs, as in the case of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, they receive death threats in addition to the insults.
Although those that support either environmental or fiscal sustainability will often find themselves on opposite ends of the political spectrum, what they really want is the same thing, for our society to live within its ability to provide for itself so the next generation is not left with our mess. Just as harvesting timber faster than it can grow will lead to deforestation, spending more money than we earn will lead to debt, and in the same way that our forests aren’t endless, neither is our credit endless. The goal of sustainability is to not deplete or damage our resources, but our nation’s financial resources are already deeply damaged by debt and continue to be used faster than they’re being renewed.