National Debt: The All Important Vote

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Let's begin with a background number not often discussed, the total American debt is now 37 trillion dollars. That is the sum total of business, personal, trade, and national government debts. 24 of the 37 trillion dollar debt have accrued since 1990. This number is growing at a phenomenal rate. The total labor force is 147.9 million (Bureau of Labor Statistics). That 37 trillion dollar total American debt equals $250,169.00 give or take a few dollars, for every working man and woman in this country. In other words this is a quarter million dollar debt for each and every working man and woman and spiraling. On November 2, voters can elect to do something about a large portion of this debt.

The national federal debt is over 7 trillion, 328 billion dollars. That is equal to $99,716.41 per breadwinner(s) in a family of four; almost $100,000. of taxes owed. And the national debt is expected to rise to over 10 trillion in less than 5 to 7 years from now. Our federal government deficit this year is projected to be between 400 and 500 billion dollars. That means the amount of revenue reduced by the tax cuts and the amount of spending by Congress will result in our government spending over 400 billion dollars more than it is taking in.

And the interest is also climbing despite lower interest rates. Although debt soared to a new record high of $7 trillion and interest on that debt fell the last 2 years (due to historically low interest rates, effectively siphoning-off senior citizen interest earnings on their savings) - - total interest increased from $214 billion per year in 1988 to $318 billion in 2003 - a 50% increase. That is $2150.00 of taxes added to our debt for each and every working man and woman in America. And that $2150 new tax burden per working person bought not a single dollar's worth of education, health care, military weaponry, or intelligence service. It will be paid to investors in America, Japan, China, and Saudi Arabia as interest earned in return for their loaning us the money. That is if America can make good on paying its debt.

Clearly, the incumbent President and Congress are not feeling pressure from the voters on this issue. If they were, they would not be increasing these fantastic, almost surreal, numbers through the roof. There is no more important issue facing Americans. Not even terrorism. Should two or three more terrorist attacks succeed in the U.S., they would not spell the end of our way of life. They may spell the loss of life for 100's or thousands or even 10's of thousands of Americans, but they will not end America, its strength, its resolve, or its future. This kind of spiraling indebtedness can do all of that.

Just as a person who extends their debt beyond their ability to borrow anymore, beyond their ability to pay it back, beyond their ability to even maintain the interest on their debt should hard times fall upon them, our nation faces very similar consequences. Many argue this debt is sustainable by a growing economy and its promise of increasing tax revenues. But, what if the economy falters? We have seen world wide recessions in our own life times, the last one in just this decade, due to market and geo-political events beyond our control and some within our control. And in 5 to 7 years when our national debt is 10 trillion dollars, and interest rates are much higher than today increasing the interest on our debt load, and our trade deficits are eating into our job markets even further, and another recession hits causing investors to pull back into cash and gold and become wary of U.S. treasuries and bonds, we could easily find a recession turning toward depression.

A majority of us today do not remember the depression of the 1930's. But, those who do, would almost without exception, caution us not to ever allow such a circumstance to reoccur. The reason is that deep recessions and depressions destroy families, psychological health, and more importantly, it destroys hope for millions and millions in our society. The solution, the ton of prevention it is going to take to get the U.S. debt situation to turn around, is not going to be painless. Just this week, the Congressional Budget Office issued a study's results on which the Associated Press reports:

The tax rate declined across all income levels - but more so in the top brackets, the report said.

People in the top 20 percent of incomes, averaging $182,700 a year, saw their share of federal taxes decline from 65.3 percent of total payments in 2001 to 63.5 percent this year, according to the study by congressional budget analysts.
In contrast, middle-class taxpayers - with incomes ranging from $51,500 to $75,600 - bear a greater tax burden. Those making an average of $75,600 had the biggest jump in their share of taxes, from 18.5 percent of all payments in 2001 to 19.5 percent this year.


The burden of buying down this debt will have to fall upon all Americans. And it is up to the American voters to force politicians to deal with this American debt burden by tapping all available resources, including those of the rich in this country. But, unless voters take a hard anti-incumbent stand in November, only platitudes will be thrown at the debt. Unless voters take an anti-incumbent stand at the polls, politicians will continue to assure us that cutting the deficit is a solution. It is not a solution. Cutting the deficit does not reduce the debt, but, simply adds to it by a lesser amount.

The only way to stop the growing debt is to end deficits. To reduce spending equal to tax revenues or raise revenues equal to our spending, are the only ways the debt's growth can be halted. But halting debt growth does not deal with the debt, only the deficit. To reduce the debt, we must take in more revenues than we spend in a given fiscal year.

Now do voters really want to see the middle class squeezed while the wealthy see their tax burden reduced? Raising middle class taxes while allowing rising interest rates, food prices, oil prices, and government spending on homeland defense, foreign wars, and the military (all being planned for today) while watching social security, Medicare, and education funding wither, is a recipe for social disaster in the not too distant future. The American voter is not required to have the answers to solve our debt crisis. They are only required to hold their representatives responsible for the rising debt.

As long as our debt continues to rise, most American voters should, in their own self interest, vote against their incumbent representative, whether it is the President, or the county tax assessor. The only voters who would benefit from escalating debt, is the one who plans on dying in the next few years. There is little doubt that if two election cycles pass with fewer incumbents being reelected, the newly elected officials would get the hint, and begin taking actions that reduce the debt.

It is not up to the politicians. It is up to the voters. And voting for their incumbents is a vote for increasing the debt that could well end our quality of life as we have known it. Politicians don't have the political will to take measures that will lose them votes. Cutting the debt will lose them votes. Voters must convince them that not cutting the debt will lose them even more votes. It is not up to the politicians. It is up to the voters. Cast your vote - cast your fate, and the fate of generations of our children to come.

2 Comments

Since these debts can never be repaid, let's declare national bankruptcy and start over.

Jeffrey, starting over is likely where we are headed whether or not we choose to.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on August 15, 2004 4:57 AM.

U.S. Reinventing Itself was the previous entry in this blog.

The Swift Boat Vets' Catch-22 is the next entry in this blog.

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