It's Well Past Time To Address The National Debt

Jun 21, 2019


Commentary: I love this country. I always have. And you don’t quit on those you love. I’d say that entitles me to get real good and mad when our leaders in Washington – Presidents and Congresses –continue to get us into deep trouble with an exploding national debt. The national debt is what we’ve borrowed from many sources – China for example, and we have to repay with interest.

Most of us have mortgages to pay, car loans to pay off, and those credit cards hungry for our debt. If we don’t pay our bills there’s always foreclosure and bankruptcy. But not for the federal government. It just runs smack through the debt ceiling and borrows more, much more, to spend and sometimes to squander.

Here’s an illustration of our national debt right now. Take the number 22, put a dollar sign in front and a comma after. Then add 12 zeros to the 22 with a comma after each three zeros. And voila! Twenty two trillion dollars.

To whom do we owe this unimaginable sum? Well, 28% to ourselves. We’ve been borrowing, for example, from Social Security’s surplus. But be easy about that. What happens when Social Security needs that money back to pay benefits to you and me? Good question. No answer. Start worrying.

(3-2-1)The other 73% has been borrowed from whomever would lend to us. China, for example. We owe them 1.12 trillion dollars and they aren’t shy about adding that indebtedness to their bubbling pot of mischief.

There is a bright light in this debt darkness. 49 of 50 states have prohibitions in their state constitutions against indebtedness.  Martin Feldstein, a brilliant American economist, had this warning for us just before he died a few weeks ago. He cautioned that “our most dangerous domestic problem… the growth of the federal budget deficits and the national debt.”

And he added that it is our children who will bear the awful burden. I think of my grandchildren and my heart aches.

Our Founding fathers inveighed against debt in the life of a nascent American nation. Thomas Jefferson advised that if we have to borrow, enact a tax right away to pay the interest; then be certain to pay off the principle on a date certain. I’m breathless. Our Founding Fathers had brilliant, common sense advice about debt. How did we become so dumb?