Progressive Writers Bloc

Fiscal Nonsense and the National Debt

Uncle Bill Warner

Please send a check for $27,444.23 for each member of your family to the Federal Treasury. For a family of four, that is a bit more than $100,000. That is the share each citizen has in the National Debt. Better pay up soon, as your government is borrowing right and left and the debt and accumulated interest is going to make what you owe a LOT more, and very soon. The total outstanding debt as of some time on Christmas day 2005 is $8,177,576,964,744. Round that off to $8 trillion dollars.

Once upon a time, a young lady in a history class I was teaching asked what she could do for extra credit, and as quantification is involved a lot in history (how many dead bodies did the Russians have to count to get up to 20 million in WW II?) I gave her the assignment of making only ONE million dots. A month later, she came back and proudly handed me a thick book with 100 pages and 1,000 dots on each page. I smiled sweetly and told her, that it was a nice effort, and she now had a hundred thousand dots, and she would only have to do this nine more times and she'd have a million. As you can imagine, she declined! She learned a lesson, and now has some small idea or what a million is.

Now, how much is a trillion? You really have to work to imagine this. It is ONE MILLION MILLIONS! When you have finished filling up your book of dots, let me know and I will add 5% to your final exam score. Of course, I'll be pretty old by then. Then, for an A in the class, do that 6½ more times to get to the Nov. 2004 national debt figure in dollars! If you can grasp a figure that high, explain infinity to me, will you?

So, how did we ever get so far in debt? The first huge spike in the National Debt was thanks to Ronald Reagan who foisted the dubious proposition on us that you could increase spending and reduce income (taxes) at the same time. (Reaganomics, or rather "trickle-down" economics) This is called "borrowing to maintain your lifestyle." President Bush has made Reagan's efforts in this area look like child's play.

Three questions come immediately to mind. (1) Where is all the money going? (2) Where is the money to pay for the borrowing coming from, and (3) Why are all of these loonies running around peddling the idea that you can keep cutting taxes and borrowing to support the budget not being put away where they cannot hurt themselves?

The question of where the money goes is not that difficult to figure out. Military spending is far and away the biggest sponge for our money. Another is interest on all the money we have already borrowed. Little details like the $1.6 trillion dollars we have given to Israel might be considered. Peter R. Orszag, a senior fellow in economic policy at the Brookings Institution, said a conservative estimate for the cost of Bush's permanent tax cuts and Social Security accounts would be about $4 trillion over 10 years.

Where is the money coming from to pay for all of that spending of money we don't have? Well, as I said at the outset, if every citizen would sit down today and write out a check for their share, we'd be in great shape (for a while, anyway). We'll cut more from education and social services, to be certain, and we'll borrow the rest as usual...from the rich who can afford to buy interest-bearing government bonds, from foreign investors, and we'll raid the Social Security Trust fund some more..

Our government is not going to run out of money as long as we can borrow. This is called "robbing Peter to pay Paul." (By the way, in this senario, you're Peter.) Also, if the government finds its money getting short, well we can run the printing presses overtime and print twice as much money. Of course, this money will only be worth half as much, which will mean that I will only get $5.00 worth of food for ten bucks. It will also mean that a lot of people who have money invested in this country, like the Saudis, Canadians, or Japanese may want to cash out before their investments become completely worthless. Of course we could raise taxes and pay this debt down now instead of just passing it along to generations of young Americans yet unborn. Our grandchildren will doubtless thank us for the debt with which we have saddled them, and for the loss of jobs due to offshoring their work, as well as for the cuts in welfare. After all, they can always join the military... right.

The last question concerning why we allow these fiscal loonies that keep selling us a bill of goods to go free is complicated. Maybe its because we like 'em. Aren't they against gay marriage, abortion, and the idea that idea that guns should be controlled? And they cut taxes! We can forgive them for destroying this country with borrowed money and big military spending.

I hate to make this a partisan issue, but the Republicans who gave us Reagan's and Bush's fiscal irresponsibility are also the ones that chant "deregulation!" as the answer to all of our problems. Right. Remember when they cut the number of regulators on the Savings and Loans a few years ago which enabled these institutions to bilk the public out of 30 to 50 billions of dollars for which the U.S. Taxpayer (or his grandchildren) is going to have to pay? That didn't help the national debt situation.

Now, please don't start again with the "welfare queen" anecdote. All of the welfare recipients and their children forming a chain to the moon and back could not suck up the $1.7 billion dollars a day that are being added to what we owe. They had nothing to do with the tax cuts Bush gave the rich that were funded by foreign loans, domestic loans, and a raid on Social Security funds. Let's quit using poor people as a scapegoat. Many of the middle class voters who supported Bush may well find themselves in the bread lines in the next few years of job loss and inflation and will understand better the situation.

It is time to quit fooling ourselves about the Republican policies of enriching the rich, blaming the poor, deregulating business (letting the fox guard the chicken coop), and spending trillions of dollars we don't have on military adventures. It is time to put the blame for the National Debt on those who have caused it to increase dramatically, and to demand that they start taking a sane approach to solving the problem! Many of my Republican friends agree, and need to start making their voices heard in the closed circles in Washington.

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