For many, many centuries, American politicians did not run up peacetime debts. (Of course, we haven't been in peace time since the Cold War began, but let's not bother ourselves with a few trillion dollars worth of military spending.) Then came the hippies with their Great Society MasterCards.
It wasn’t because they were unpartisan or smarter or more virtuous. It was because they were constrained by a mentality inherited from the founders: A nation rests on a fragile equilibrium. Delicate and fragile, like a condom that's been in your wallet too long, because we are flawed and fallen creatures. We cannot fully trust ourselves. (For example, and can’t quite trust ourselves. So all of us, but especially members of the leadership class, should practice self-restraint.
(For example: Don't own too many slaves. (Too big to flush.) )
So this non-moral idea of self-restraint. And before you even ask, "Is self-restraint a form of morality?", I can say only one thing. Fucking cram it.
Certainly, one might point the the Ten Commandments or the Seven Sins as examples of moral self-restraint. But that does not apply here. Oh no. For when we restrain ourselves from the impulse to kill one another, we act in the knowledge that we will in turn not be killed in order to inhibit the vengeful ghosts of our ancestors from killing our chickens with chicken-plague. (Don't laugh, it happened to my dad.)
Therefore we Americans exercise self-restraint not because we care about others--but because we care about ourselves. And that is what made this country great. Not caring.
Moral anxiety--which as I clearly stated is not moral--restrained hubris (don’t think your side possesses the whole truth). (With a few minor exceptions, such as the Civil War, Jim Crow, Separate But Equal, and a few lynchings here and there to keep trouble-makers in line, and more preventable industrial accidents than you could count in a month. But all of that only consumed one century plus the enduring racism...not even worth mentioning. )
Of course, that won't stop blowhards such as myself and Christopher Hitchens are never going to shut up from ever shutting up about how Iraq has become a shining beacon of Hope And Democracy.
Another effect of the non-moral moral restraint was its effect upon self-indulgence (debt corrupts character). Which is why I don't own a house. Home mortgages are a gateway--to Eternal Damnation! And would I pay for an airline ticket with a Mastercard? Hell no. Frankly I don't believe in Bernoulli's Principle--I've never trusted wind tunnels, and as far as I'm concerned anything that goes on in one is suspect.
This non-moral moral equilibrium has now however, broken like Benjamin Franklin's , on left and right. The new mentality sees the country not as an equilibrium, but as a battlefield in which the people, who are pure and virtuous, do battle against the interests or the elites, who stand in the way of the people’s happiness. Although why I rooted for the Republicans in the last election versus the Democrats wouldn't seem to make much sense if I abhor the policies of both. Well, that's journalism for you. If you want logical consistency, try Bertrand Russell. This is business.