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Today’s version of the United States has dug itself into a debt problem that has now reached a degree it has not seen since it concluded the Second World War. Like a health concern that starts out minor and progressively drags on, one day something suddenly arises that demands it be taken seriously. So too has this debt illness lurked in the background for decades, until an unexpected catalyst in the COVID-19 pandemic forced a serious turn for the worse. Awareness is now finally catching up to the reality that difficult choices lie ahead. America now stands at a crossroads, idling between a centralized credit-based system in terminal decline and a new peer offering hope, progress, and opportunity.

There is still a large but shrinking camp who stands by the belief that no serious problem exists; or, if acknowledging that one does, pitch a hopeful fallback argument that the systems, policies, and toolkit of the status quo are up to the task of delivering a solution. A sober look at reality provides a dissenting opinion, with decades of policy blunders at every critical step along the path that led here only prolonging the disease’s terminal date, at the likely cost of worsening the eventual outcome. To Americans on the fence looking for clarity and a path forward, this essay’s visit with our history offers a hopeful antidote to the confusion, paralysis, and denial associated with today’s situation.