Unless Congress acts to raise the debt ceiling by August 2, the U.S. could default on its bills for the first time in history. The debt ceiling is an oddly named term meaning the amount the US can borrow to pay its bills.
This is not a conspiracy theory. It’s not doom and gloom and howl at the moon film noir. It’s not Dooms Day. This isn’t “Repent, For the End Is Near,” though a case might be made for this point of view. This is real economics, real politics, and real morality all in one.
The United States holds a $14.4 Trillion debt, which climbs by the moment. In fact, if I wrote the number to the last dollar it would be out of date before I finished this paragraph, let alone posted text or checked my website tomorrow morning for comments. It increases, meaning deepens, at mind-boggling speed.
The U.S. Treasury borrows $4 Billion, that’s with a B, per day to pay American debts. This in a country with the world’s largest economy yielding an annual GDP of $14.7 Trillion (2010). Yet we’re also enduring a 9.1% unemployment rate.
Since 1981, the national debt has gone from $1 Trillion to $14.4 Trillion, most under Republican Presidents. The debt ceiling has been raised 78 times in the past fifty years, 10 times since 2001. Almost one-half of American public debt is held by China and Japan. The US pays $225 Billion per year in interest.
To say that the US economy, perhaps even culture or country, is in trouble understates the problem. There’s nothing about America’s economics or its political culture that suggests we cannot experience the violence recently witnessed in Greece in response to so-called “austerity measures” and resulting lower standards of living—all traceable to Greece’s own profligate spending, economic denial, live for today culture.
The issue at hand is not simply the need for Congress to act to raise the debt ceiling by August 2 so the country will not default on its bill payments. That comes first, but the real issue is whether congressional leaders and the President can work together, which is to say can Republicans and Democrats work together, to identify the hard decisions and solutions to bring the country’s budget into line, reduce the national debt, and reinvest in our children’s future. To date no political party has risen to the task.
The Republicans do poorly or do irrationally. The Democrats do nothing at all. President Barack Obama’s record on the budget deficit and national debt is simply to add to both—through extending the Bush tax cuts, tiptoeing around Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, fighting not two, as Bush did, but three foreign wars, and offering Stimulus bailouts that put the country ever more deeply in arrears—all while talking about “bumps” in the road.
Neither party is impressive, nor are its leaders. So we keep going deeper in debt. Meanwhile, we put up with the likes of Rep. Anthony Weiner.
Don’t let partisan pundits fool you. Neither side of the aisle is in league with the Devil. Neither party has God on its side. Don’t believe politicians or pundits who opine there is no solution.
Economics may be the dismal science, but it’s not rocket science. There are solutions to the national debt crisis.
The question remains: do we have leaders with enough creativity and courage to identify solutions, help the American public understand them, and resolve to see them through to enactment and outcome? Canada did in the 1990s. But at the moment, I have my doubts we have leaders who can rise to the level of statesmanship required.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
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