Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The National Debt

The United States is bankrupt.

There, I just said the obvious and it feels good to say it. We are in debt about $14,000.000.000.000.000. (that's fourteen trillion dollars)  It is hard to conceive, but looking at all those zeros helps.  Our government is  taking in less money than it is spending.   Any household that spends more money than it takes in is bankrupt.  This is simple, common sense logic, yet when applied to our government, we are told deficit (debt) is good  and actually okay for our economy and the world's economy.  Who is Washington trying to kid?  It's not good and if we don't start doing something positive about the national debt we are going to be, literally, in a world of hurt.

We owe so much to China now, that if China calls in our loans, we'll all be learning Chinese as a second language or, perhaps, a first language.  For me, this is the most frightening aspect of all.  If China were a more democratic government, I wouldn't feel such a sense of doom.  But, being the authoritative government it is, squelching free speech,  encroaching in its people's lives, and running the country with a steel hand, I do fear for our country and its democratic ideals.  I don't wish to march to the beat of a Chinese drum. 

It is high time our politicians and our government stop playing and toying around with something as important as the national debt and get serious about starting to pay it off.  At this point, we will probably have this debt for the rest of my natural lifetime.  I don't know if it can ever, realistically, be paid off, but bringing it down would be a good start. It also is no use pointing fingers and casting blame any more as to why we have the debt.  It is now time for action:

1.  Our country needs to grow jobs.  We need to put people back to work in some type of job program. A job program similar to the WPA  of the l930"s,  but geared for the 21st Century, would put many of the 15% of the unemployed (the TRUE percentage of unemployed in this country) back to work.  If that happened there would be money flowing in to households that could then spend some to give our economy the jolt it needs.  This is everyone's responsibility to come up with such a program - the president, the congress, the economists,  and the business world.  Once the economy is back on track and private industry is hiring more employees, the government program could be scaled back.

2.    The banks and private industry need to stop hoarding money and infuse some of it into our economy.   Banks need to lend more money, but lend it responsibly and private industry needs to use its surplus of money to become more innovative which in turn could create more jobs.  The stalemate we are at would end.  This can be done slowly as a work up process.

3.    Taxes need to be raised first, on the extremely wealthy citizens and extremely wealthy corporations, and then even on the middle class if need be. No more tax abatements should be given out to companies.  All Americans need to be part of the solution of bringing in more money for the government to run on.  Of course, no one wants their taxes raised, but for the good of the country, everyone, at some point, will need to pay more taxes.   If the government doesn't bring in more money, the debt just grows.

4.    Yes, of course, we need to make cuts in our country's budget.  Government doesn't have to be as big as it has grown.  But, let's not make cuts in the budget that affects our most vulnerable citizens in our country.
Yes, there is waste in the entitlement programs:  Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  Let's tighten up those programs and get rid of the waste and corruption and bureaucratic mess these programs have become.
Let's reform them, but let's not get rid of them all together.  They are the safety nets our citizens need and as a democratic government, we should have empathy for our fellow citizens, not the attitude "I've got mine, too bad if you don't have yours."  Everybody's personal circumstances are different. We do not want to become a nation of haves and have nots. 

To accomplish all this will take time, thought, insight, compassion, understanding, and that dreaded word, compromise.  Can our government rise to the occasion?  Will our government rise to the occasion?  We are at a crossroads in our country's economic and  democratic history.  Will we succeed or fail in charting the correct road in history for our country to take?