MINOT, NORTH DAKOTA — Are the doom-and-gloom stories of
the next crisis about to change life “as we’ve known it” ever
going to cease? Not likely. These crises — global warming, global
cooling, food shortages, the population boom, and more — generally
benefit their promoters. In the end, the predicted disasters rarely
materialize. At least, not the disasters we have been told will befall
us. More often than not, change brings substantial benefits to virtually
This column is not an attempt to strike fear of some new crisis. Its
intent is to inform readers what our elected federal officials have
done and are doing with our earnings and our financial future.
The Mid-Session Review?Budget of the U.S. Government?Fiscal
year 2010 is hardly bedtime reading. But it is sobering. The U.S. taxpayers (you
and me) are more than $11 trillion dollars in debt. The number is so
huge most people cannot comprehend it and simply ignore it.
To understand the enormity of the numbers, it is helpful to think of
a dollar as one second. A million seconds is 11.57 days. A billion
seconds is 31.71 years. A trillion seconds is 31,709.79 years. To pay
off today’s federal debt, each person in the U.S. would have
to plunk down $35,947.71. A family of four would have to come up with
$143,790.85. Could you do that?
How do our elected officials plan to deal with this debt? They plan
to increase it by an additional $10 trillion dollars to $21 trillion
by 2019. This will raise the debt of individuals to $67,593.28 and
the debt of a family of four to $270,373.13. However, more than half
of the U.S. population pays no federal income taxes. Thus, for those
paying taxes the responsibility is approximately $135,000 and $540,000,
Prudence would lead a rational person to stop increasing debt and reduce
it. Instead, our elected officials are proposing to almost double our
debt over the next 10 years. In 2009, interest on the federal debt
will be $173 billion. Projected interest on the debt in 2019 is $829
Official projected individual income tax collections for 2019 are $2,114
trillion — more than double the $904 billion projected for 2009. In
2019, almost half of individual income tax collections will be needed
to pay interest on the debt, up from less than 20 percent today.
These figures assume voters do not put a stop to this irresponsible
deficit spending. They also assume there are countries willing to continue
lending to a country spending far beyond its means. Those that have
money generally do not lend to spendthrifts and irresponsible borrowers.
Eventually, the pool of available money will dry up. That day may have arrived,
and if not today, it will be soon. What are the consequences?
No company and no country is too large to fail. Those who disagree need only
to look back — GM, AIG, Enron, Washington Mutual, and the host of entities no
longer with us. Nor are the Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Prussian, Ottoman, or Spanish
empires with us.
The most prudent thing to do is to stop deficit spending now, not tomorrow or
next year. Every dollar of additional debt will make the consequences more severe
and the recovery more difficult. Our elected officials are clearly unable or
unwilling to fulfill the duties they have to those they represent. Instead, like
gambling addicts they believe they can win it all back at the next table.
This leaves us in an unenviable position. We can stay on a plane, out of fuel,
diving straight to earth, and hope it will defy the laws of gravity. Or we can
put on a parachute and get off. The first option provides no chance of survival.
The second does.
In political terms, it is time for responsible citizens to take back control
of the country. It is time to stop deficit spending and live within our means.
This requires budgeting to pay off the debt and discarding all programs that
require borrowed money to fund. It takes discipline and responsible leadership
— something our elected officials lack.
Those who disagree need to explain how an $11-trillion dollar debt with plans
to increase it another $10 trillion shows discipline or leadership. It does not
take a rocket scientist to figure out that one does not pay off debt by doubling
it. Where does government get money? Only from taxpayers. Think about it.
If we continue to incur debt and fail to control spending, say a prayer and prepare
for the crash.
A Voice from Fly-Over
A Voice from Fly-Over Country is copyright © 2009 by Robert
L. Hale and the Fitzgerald Griffin
All rights reserved.
Robert L. Hale received his J.D. in law from Gonzaga University Law
School in Spokane, Washington. He is founder and director of a non-profit
public interest law firm. For more than three decades he has been involved
in drafting proposed laws and counseling elected officials in ways
to remove burdensome and unnecessary rules and regulations.
See a complete biographical sketch.
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