As 2010 comes to a close, the debt picture in the United States continues to look pretty grim. The President’s Deficit Reduction Commission has made a number of worthwhile recommendations to reduce national debt, but it’s unlikely that the incoming congress will have the political courage to implement them in a way that will actually help.
The federal government has accumulated more new debt--$3.22 trillion ($3,220,103,625,307.29)—during the tenure of the 111th Congress than it did during the first 100 Congresses combined, according to official debt figures published by the U.S. Treasury.
That equals $10,429.64 in new debt for each and every one of the 308,745,538 people counted in the United States by the 2010 Census.
The total national debt of $13,858,529,371,601.09 (or $13.859 trillion), as recorded by the U.S. Treasury at the close of business on Dec. 22, now equals $44,886.57 for every man, woman and child in the United States.
Some economists on the Left (notably Paul Krugman and Robert Reich) argue that things aren’t so bad and that expanding government (with the additional spending that entails) is the right path. These economists, driven by an ideological zeal that clouds their ability to discern reality, exhibit a shocking ignorance of human history.
Jacques Attali addresses that history when he writes:
The history of public debt is the very history of national power: how it has been won and how it has been lost. Dreams and impatience have always driven men in power to draw on the resources of others—be it slaves, the inhabitants of occupied lands, or their own children yet to be born—in order to carry out their schemes, to consolidate power, to grow their own fortunes. But never, outside periods of total war, has the debt of the world’s most powerful states grown so immense. Never has it so heavily threatened their political systems and standards of living. Public debt cannot keep growing without unleashing terrible catastrophes.
Indeed, we and our children and grandchildren have become “slaves” to our ever accumulating debt. And as the debt load grows, we will degrade our ability to advance as a nation, to help those among us who really do deserve our support, and to provide programs that will lead to a better future for the generations that follow.
In this new year, I hope that the President and the 112th Congress will have the courage to follow the recommendation of the debt reduction commission in total and possibly do even more. As a nation, we can feel pain now or suffer potentially fatal pain later. I say we grit our teeth and suffer the pain now. In the end, it will have been worth it.