Debt is out of control and politicians don't care

We are living through a fundamental shift concerning the national debt. Shockingly, it is no longer a partisan issue. Washington Republicans are as culpable as their Democratic rivals. Fiscal conservatism, which once was the bedrock of the Republican Party, has all but vanished. America is witnessing irresponsible financial insanity and economic suicide.

Is anyone watching? Does anyone really care?

History shows that Franklin D. Roosevelt was the biggest culprit in elevating the percentage of debt. By the end of 1945, FDR added $236 billion to the national debt — a whopping 1,048% increase – but, in his defense, we were involved in a little something called World War II.

When President Jimmy Carter left office in 1981 the national debt was just shy of one-trillion dollars. In less than 40 years since then, the United States has watched its debt obligation balloon to almost $23 trillion. That’s a 23 with twelve zeros.

(If the debt were visualized as a stack of one-dollar bills, it would extend well past the moon.)

Ronald Reagan added $1.86 trillion, an increase of 186%; George H.W. Bush added $1.55 trillion, a 54% increase; Bill Clinton added $1.4 trillion, a 32% increase; George W. Bush: added $5.85 trillion, a 101% increase; in two terms Barack Obama added $8.6 trillion, a 74% increase — and President Donald Trump is on track to add about $5.1 trillion in his first term.

Debt isn't new. U.S. debt began with our revolution 240-plus years ago. The United States borrowed from France and the Netherlands to pay for the Revolutionary War, and by 1783 we owed $43 million (over a billion in today’s dollars). Not surprisingly, each major conflict in U.S. history has been accompanied by a sharp rise in the national debt. Bullets, guns, tanks, ships, all cost money.

War costs money. Being the world’s policeman costs money. Infrastructure, national parks, TSA, education, the EPA, fighting illegal immigration, NASA, housing welfare and the IRS all cost money. The nation has over two million people on the nation’s payroll, ranging from park rangers to astronauts — all paid by taxing citizens and borrowing.

Today’s politicians have become reckless with tax dollars. The campaign promises they make are often unsustainable. Democrats’ second favorite word is "FREE" (the first is “racism,” but that's a whole other column), and the current cast of Democratic hopefuls continue to promise services that can never be delivered.

Trump hasn’t been much better. Our president promised he would eliminate the deficit and promised never again to sign a bad bill — but Trump turned around and scribbled his name to a two-year, $2.7 trillion budget agreement that wards off $126 billion in automatic spending cuts and suspends the debt ceiling through July 2021.

How high will this National Debt go before someone screams, “STOP!”?

When the nation spends money frivolously, then borrows to pay for those bad decisions, we’re robbing future generations. Imagine in your own life that you’re drowning in credit card debt and registering all zeroes in your bank account. No money for oil or electricity; you owe big bucks in medical bills; the kid needs new braces. But instead of facing those issues like a responsible adult, you head over to a local car dealership and buy a $200,000 Rolls Royce!

And not only do you purchase this ridiculously expensive vehicle on credit, you negotiate a deal with the salesman making your newly born grandchild responsible for making the payments starting on her 18th birthday. Essentially, your kids and your kids’ kids will be asked to carry an unsustainable debt albatross long after all of us are gone.

If every taxpayer in the United States wrote a check to Uncle Sam for $180,000, we still wouldn't be free from what we owe. Twenty-three trillion is a scary number. Reality is scarier.

Truth is, if we look to the total unfunded liability for Social Security (Medicare parts A, B and D, federal debt held by the public, federal employees and veterans’ benefits) the total amount we owe is a staggering $125,000,000,000,000. Currently we pay $500 billion in debt services a year with no relief in sight. How long can we sustain this? Does any politician have a plan to pay it? Even a country as great as ours needs to realize there comes a point of no return. We cannot spend our way into prosperity.

Rare is the legislator who looks to pay down debt. Most are happy to spend the country deeply into debt for shiny new toys or to provide tax cuts without the spending cuts to cover them — all in exchange for votes.

I call on our leaders to pay attention to debt. I have too. Why shouldn’t they?

Lee Elci is the morning host for 94.9 News Now radio, a station that provides "Stimulating Talk" with a conservative bent.

 

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