Chattanooga Times Free Press



“Debt is the worst poverty.” — Thomas Fuller, 17th-cen­tury English church­man and his­to­rian

No reporter asks about it. The can­di­dates don’t talk about it. Are vot­ers even con­cerned about it?

The un­men­tioned “it” is the na­tional debt, which re­cently reached $27 tril­lion and con­tin­ues to grow like an un­treated tu­mor on the eco­nomic body of the na­tion.

At least one group is try­ing to get the pub­lic’s at­ten­tion about how dan­ger­ous the na­tional debt is to the fu­ture of the coun­try. It is the newly formed Mil­len­nial Debt Com­mis­sion, or MDC, a civil­ian-led com­mis­sion work­ing to­ward a frame­work for long-term deficit re­duc­tion, made up of “20 mil­len­nial busi­ness lead­ers from across the coun­try.”

The MDC re­cently held a con­fer­ence call with cur­rent and for­mer mem­bers of Congress (all Repub­li­cans, un­for­tu­nately, since the debt is equally the fault of both par­ties) and for­mer gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

One of those on the call was for­mer Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice Di­rec­tor Doug Holtz-Eakin, who said the na­tional debt is “quite lit­er­ally math­e­mat­i­cally un­sus­tain­able.” This is not new, as many have been saying much the same over many years, though they lack the will to do any­thing about re­duc­ing it. These in­clude Con­gresses with Demo­crat and Repub­li­can ma­jori­ties and ad­min­is­tra­tions. Holtz-Eakin added, “We are headed into a death spi­ral where we bor­row to pay in­ter­est on pre­vi­ous bor­row­ing, and it can­not be sus­tained.”

It is, as Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis­con­sin, calls it, “in­ter­gen­er­a­tional theft.” We’ve heard that one be­fore, too, but it’s one thing to sound an alarm; it is quite an­other to stop the thieves. Said Johnson, “70% of our bud­get (is) now on com­plete au­to­matic pi­lot …”

While some alarmists are warn­ing we could all die from cli­mate change in the next how­ever many years (their pre­dic­tions dif­fer and have been con­sis­tently wrong), the na­tional debt is a clear and present threat to the sta­bil­ity, even ex­is­tence, of the coun­try. Great na­tions of the past have ex­pired, or been greatly di­min­ished, by re­fus­ing to con­trol debt.

Rep. Wil­liam Tim­mons, R-South Carolina, warned, “The global econ­omy is not go­ing to al­low the United States gov­ern­ment to bor­row $70 tril­lion (his es­ti­mate at the cur­rent rate of bor­row­ing and spend­ing) … we will lose our pre­em­i­nent po­si­tion and the dol­lar will just be in the trash can.”

Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis­con­sin, added, “… the pro­jected Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice debt to GDP ra­tio at the end of the year is 101%. That’s re­ally the tip­ping point when you talk to macroe­conomists and where you get into a dan­ger zone. … What we need to do is have an adult and thought­ful con­ver­sa­tion about how we are go­ing to turn the tide and get back to a sus­tain­able path go­ing for­ward.”

Ah, but herein lies the prob­lem. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, told the con­fer­ence call par­tic­i­pants, “I was on the bud­get and ap­pro­pri­a­tions process re­form com­mit­tee, the joint se­lect com­mit­tee that was es­tab­lished sev­eral years ago … we couldn’t come to­gether on leg­is­la­tion. We could not do any­thing more than sim­ple win­dow dress­ing. … There are so many peo­ple stuck in the way that we’ve al­ways done things … and we re­ally do have to move be­yond that.”

The on­go­ing prob­lem is how? As long as many Amer­i­cans be­lieve gov­ern­ment owes them money ex­tracted from other peo­ple, as long as politi­cians use spend­ing to “buy” votes, re­fus­ing to say “no” to any re­quest, the debt will grow. That guar­an­tees the bill will come due sooner rather than later.

Ralph Waldo Emer­son is among le­gions of peo­ple who have warned of the dan­gers of debt: “A man in debt is so far a slave.”

If that is true for in­di­vid­u­als, how much more for na­tions?

 ??  ?? Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

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