Monday, August 18, 2008

The National Debt Problem

Everyone knows America faces difficult problems. The war on terror is continues to be an issue, as the Taliban stages a resurgence in Afghanistan. America still has an insupportably high crime rate, and out incarceration rate is one the highest in the world. Drugs and poverty still rule in inner cities. The economic outlook remains rocky, energy prices are high. The national debt is 9.6 trillion dollars.

There aren’t easy answers to any of those problems, but (to paraphrase Reagan), there are simple ones. A tough foreign policy will win the war on terror, and tough policing and sentencing should lower the crime rate. Nuclear power and increased drilling would reduce energy prices, and libertarian economic policies would result in a more robust economy.

Only one of those problems has no simple solution. Most Americans worry, at least a little bit, about the national debt. All conservatives do. But they don’t worry nearly enough. The national debt is very nearly completely out of control. If something is not done, and soon, it will be impossible for America to ever pay off its debt. Not simply very difficult, but literally impossible.

Right now, the national debt is approximately $9,612,925,926,818.94, although given that it increases by 1.86 billion per day, it has probably risen a few hundred thousand dollars while you read this. Paying interest on the national debt is one of the largest federal expenditures, at over four hundred billion dollars per year.

The entire federal budget in 2008 (which was the highest ever) was 3.1 trillion dollars, which is less than a third of the national debt. Even if the federal budget doubled, and the extra money used to pay off the national debt, it would still take three whole years to pay off the debt. (And this scenario, of course, could never happen). If the budget was increased by one trillion dollars every year, (which is also nigh impossible), it would still take a decade to pay off.

So even with incredibly drastic debt reduction measures, the national debt would be nearly impossible to pay. But Washington (both Democrats and Republicans) isn’t even considering less extreme measures to cut the national debt. The federal budget and debt has skyrocketed in the past quarter century—the national debt is ten times larger than it was in 1980. During George W. Bush’s term, the debt has doubled. The national debt is a crushing problem—and one that our leaders are simply making worse.

Even if there was some easy way to pay off the federal debt, the United States faces an estimated $57.3 trillion dollars in federal liabilities to cover the lifetime benefits of everyone eligible for Medicare, Social Security and other government programs. Fifty-seven trillion. And that is in addition to regular government expenditures, such as the military, welfare, and interest on the national debt. America’s fiscal situation is frightening, and there is no easy answer.

Sadly, neither presidential candidate will do much to solve the national debt problem. Barack Obama, of course, is basically a quasi-socialist, tax-and-spend liberal. Under his watch, the national debt would continue to skyrocket. (Although, on the other hand, Bill Clinton lowered the national debt, which neither Reagan nor either of the Bushes could do).

John McCain would be better—but really, not by much. He would probably keep the national debt in control (at least if he keeps his promise to control spending), but he wouldn’t do much to pay it off, or address the crushing weight of future federal liabilities. McCain would be on this issue than Bush, definitely better than Obama—but not nearly good enough.

I don’t know what the solution for this problem is (I imagine that a solution would involve cutting spending and benefits, and raising taxes), but it will be a difficult one, and one that will have to be made soon. The national debt is perhaps the most important issue facing America today, and conservatives should demand that Republicans address it.

6 Comments:

At August 18, 2008 at 10:07 PM , Blogger Beth said...

Welcome back, Daniel, hope you had a good vacation!

I think the numbers are so incredibly outrageous that they seem, perhaps, fictional. But they are very real.

Clinton did reduce the deficit, by massive cuts in defense. Not such a good plan when we are fighting a war. Not that Obama would think about that of course.

I think we need to call in some debts owed to us from other countries, in addition to making cuts in programs that simply should never have been part of the federal budget. Though it accounts for a small portion, it would be a start.

You are right, none of the candidates are talking about this, maybe some e-mails to the media to bring the topic up, in a debate or just during Q&A sessions, as well as sending e-mails to the candidates themselves. It is too important to sweep under the rug.

 
At August 19, 2008 at 1:57 PM , Anonymous Jamie said...

This post really hits the nail on the head. I am actually working in promoting a movie talking about this very issue called IOUSA. It's interesting how little I knew about this problem until I started working with the movie - and now it is mind boggling that it is just a topic that is "swept under the rug"....

Anyway, if you are interested in the movie, it is playing this Thursday, pretty much all over. I hope as many people see it so they also know and understand the problem our country is in. Here is the link if anybody is! Should be a good movie, and it has big names like Warren Buffett that hopefully will draw crowds

 
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