America's national debt has received increasing attention in recent years. As the financial crisis ensued in 2008, massive bailout and rescue packages catapulted the national debt skyward.
Despite concerns about the mounting debt, some remain convinced that it poses no serious risk. These skeptics often claim that the debt is "owed to ourselves" and is therefore harmless. However, most economists across the spectrum have concluded that the national debt does pose a threat to the economy. As debt continues to approach parity with GDP, the financial stability of the country becomes increasingly shaky. This scenario currently is playing out in Greece, where the country now faces an economy in tatters, and has been seen recently in Argentina, a country that still has not recovered nearly ten years later.
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Although a large consensus has formed conceding that the national debt poses a threat, there is no consensus on how to reduce it. Large portions of the debt are attributed to "non-discretionary" spending. These portions of the debt cannot be changed without changes to existing law. These categories include various entitlement and welfare programs. Altering these plans is not always politically palatable. Reductions in discretionary spending, while a good start, only amounts to a proverbial "drop in the bucket." Others claim that the national debt cannot be repaid. This camp argues that the debt is too large and repudiation should be considered.
Another concern, although cited less often in conjunction with the national debt, is unfunded liabilities. While the debt is currently over fourteen trillion dollars, some argue unfunded liabilities should be added to that number. If unfunded liabilities are considered, the national debt could be fifty to one-hundred trillion dollars or more. This, coupled with the fact we are still fighting two wars, makes the task of significantly reducing the debt even more arduous.
If we accept the belief that a rising national debt poses a threat to the health of our nation, we must begin to seriously consider the currently accepted role of the federal government in the economy and our lives. Government entitlement programs that were once regularly objected to have become taboo to question. Lest we choose to become another country burdened by our debt, these topics need to be openly and objectively discussed.
Tell DC: Stop Spending Future Generations into Debt!