David Walker is the president and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, founded by billionaire financier Peterson as a think tank on fiscal issues. On CNBC’s “Squawk Box” recently, Walker seemed to long for a return to debtor’s prisons. If he’s nostalgic for debtor’s prison, the next step is to advocate the return of debt bondage, or perhaps people being sold into indentured servitude. Those practices went hand in hand with the concept of prison time for those who owe money. Via Media Matters:
WALKER: The fact of the matter is, we have to change how we do things. We are on an imprudent and unsustainable path in a number of ways. You talk about debtor’s prisons, we used to have debtor’s prisons, now bankruptcy’s no taint. Bankruptcy’s an exit strategy. Our society and our culture have changed. We need to get back to opportunity and move away from entitlement. We need to be able to provide reasonable risk but we need to hold people accountable when they do imprudent things. It’s pretty fundamental.
Longing for the return of debtor’s prison is effectively longing for a return to forms of slavery. Throughout most of history, failure to pay debts resulted in prison and debt bondage. In this practice, people would be forced into servitude to pay off a debt. It was one of the most common forms of slavery throughout the world. To this day, it results in many living in a form of slavery.
In English and American history, debtor’s prison created debt bondage in the form of indentured servitude. People were thrown into debtor’s prison because they unable to pay their debts. They were sometimes sold into indentured servitude and shipped across the world. They lived, worked and often died under brutal conditions. The colony of Georgia was envisioned as a place to ship debtors to serve as enslaved labor.
Many people thrown in debtor’s prison died behind bars, unable to earn money to pay off their debts. Their young children were forced to work in sweatshops to try to earn enough to free their parents. The horrible fate of working in a bootblack factory as a 12-year-old befell Charles Dickens when his father was put in debtor’s prison. It inspired Dickens to write about the wretched conditions of the working class.
Now, why should you care that this wealthy CEO longs for the days of debtor’s prison, which often resulted in forced bondage and child labor? Walker heads the Peterson Foundation, and President Obama is heavily relying on Peterson and those associated with him to help run his deficit commission. I’m horrified that this man with his insane beliefs is anywhere near important policy decisions about the future of Social Security and Medicare.