In debating the national debt limit in 2006, a relatively unknown U.S. senator argued that its increase was “a sign of leadership failure…a sign that the government can’t pay its own bills…[and] a sign that we now depend on financial assistance from foreign countries to finance the government’s reckless fiscal policies.” Yet those words fell on deaf ears. For since Barack Obama’s impassioned comments, over six trillion dollars in debt has accumulated: 3.7 trillion of which since the day he was inaugurated.
As this year’s budget drama unfolds yet again, the struggle over federal spending pervades partisan debate. With yearly deficits of $1.7 trillion, a national debt over eight times that amount, the federal government borrowing 41 cents for every dollar it spends, and the cumulative depth of red ink more than ninety percent of gross domestic product, many seek scapegoats for the mortgage most willingly underwrote.
Everyone acknowledges the problem yet few admit its source. At center is the conflict between personal aggrandizement and national benefit. Perpetuating fiscal irresponsibility is a public demanding increasing government service for its support and politicians ensuring reelection with future credit. As captives between mutually reinforcing egocentricities, each imprisons the other while those unborn are twice hostage to present self-interest and future economic collapse.
That monetary recklessness threatens future prosperity is inevitable. With yearly service on the national debt over $400 billion, its annual interest over the last decade insatiably cannibalizing each tax dollar, and a Madoffesque budget “balanced” with new credit paying off old debt, expenditures are made for which nothing is purchased. Accordingly, such irresponsibility increasingly consumes revenue needed to repair infrastructure, fund medical research, and build schools and hospitals. And as the American Dream becomes a Ponzi scheme nightmare of diminishing living standards, blameless millions are destined to owe money borrowed before their birth.
As for any addiction, reckless spending is difficult to stop. This is as true for consumers addicted to “plastic money” as it is for politicians spending dollars never earned on constituent needs never satisfied. Never mind that the debt share for each American is $46,000. Proposals to cut spending are met with hysteria. Never mind that economists describe debts of more than 60% of GDP as “unhealthy.” The accumulated federal shortfall is forecast to balloon to over a 100% of GDP by 2012. Never mind that budgetary liability grows by four billion dollars every day. And never mind that accumulated debt is so vast that Congress has shamelessly established a website requesting online donations to pay it off.
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