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Bryan Griffin: Tackling The National Debt

The U.S. National Debt is currently at $22.1 trillion, and it is time to seriously examine how this is possible.

If we are going to project strength abroad; at Venezuela, at North Korea, and at China, we must have our house in order.

The current level of U.S. government spending is absolutely untenable.

Next time you’re online, you might check out the website “usdebtclock.org

It provides a real-time ticker of our increasing national debt. Every second of every day, the figures in the red are increasing, at an alarming rate.

The United States government is spending about 4.2 trillion dollars a year, while taking in about 3.4 trillion. This means we are currently maintaining a federal budget deficit of approximately $800 billion, but this number is constantly increasing.

Our top two expenditures, by far, are our biggest entitlement programs. We are spending $1.1 trillion a year on Medicare and $1 trillion a year on Social Security. And these numbers are also constantly increasing.

Combining Medicare, Social Security, and other income security nets (like food stamps, housing assistance, etc.) we get to about two and a half trillion dollars, which is again a per year expenditure. Remember, we are $800 billion apart from spending just as much as we collect in taxes, and these federal expenditure costs are likewise constantly increasing. I cannot stress that enough in this examination – these costs are always increasing.

If each citizen were to be given an equal bill to split the current U.S. debt, we’d owe about $67,000.00 apiece. If we split the debt only among those actively paying taxes, each of us owe $180,000.00.

So who does the U.S. government owe all of this money to?

Well, the answer is mostly, you, the taxpayer.

Most of the money the government finds to pay for the things we can’t cover with tax revenue comes from borrowing from Social Security and retirement and pension funds. Other debt holders are the federal reserve, states and local governments, banks, insurance companies, and foreign countries. Foreign countries hold about $5 trillion of our debt, and a third of that is held by China and Japan alone. This isn’t great considering China is our only real economic competitor on the world stage.

Defaulting on foreign investors is bad and would likely lead to serious international tensions, if not open conflict. But defaulting on our debt would mostly hurt our own citizens.

As politicians in Washington implement each new government program, it’s not their money that they are gambling with, it’s yours. It’s not their livelihood they’re risking – it’s the people who they are supposed to be helping.

And so it’s a vicious cycle.

Every time politicians try to use the government to solve societal problems, like pay for healthcare, care for the needy, or support the unemployed, they are doing so at the very real and very direct expense of each and every citizen of the United States. And honestly, why wouldn’t they? They get the short-term admiration for passing legislation that provides a temporary solution to a problem, and when the bill comes due it will be long after their term is over.

Where does the spending stop? Consider the latest legislative proposals. How much more would something like a Green New Deal cost? Likely, every penny that any of us have ever paid into our own Social Security, and then some – multiple trillions more.

This is the problem with looking to the government to provide solutions to society’s ills. Paying for government to provide, instead of empowering the individual to succeed, will never be sustainable.

And I’ve mentioned in previous commentaries the suggested income tax rates being thrown around by the democratic socialist stars of the Democratic Party to pay for their newest, grandest ideas: 70, 90, and 95% of the income of the nation’s top earners. Do you think when that’s exhausted they will hesitate to come after your income next?

If the only pool of solutions to provide for our society is that which makes government the answer, we will never succeed.

Just consider the plainly-verifiable numbers behind entitlement or safety-net spending in the U.S. Since the late 1960s, government expenditures on things like food, housing, and unemployment have exponentially skyrocketed, and yet from the 1960s to today the U.S. national poverty rate has hovered at approximately the same level. Government spending does not meet the needs of the needy. It hasn’t worked and it will never work, because government spending is akin to the proverbial solution of giving someone a fish for a day, instead of teaching them how to fish.

The true conservative understands this, and advocates for fiscal conservatism in the policies they present. Contrary to the oft-used line of liberals, conservatives do care for the poor, needy, or sick. We want to care for our fellow citizen and provide for those truly in need. However, a fiscal conservative recognizes that simply paying for what people need isn’t enough to fix the root cause of the problem, and isn’t sustainable.

President Trump cut taxes to alleviate the financial burden that taxes place on many Americans, but he and conservatives in congress must accompany these cuts with spending cuts if the debt is to ever be slowed. This means serious entitlement reforms. Solutions are needed to meet the needs of our fellow citizens that are empowering and not a zero-sum transfer of wealth.

Wealth doesn’t need to be spread around, it needs to be created and people need to be equipped and empowered to create it.

In my next commentary, I will examine in detail conservative alternatives to government entitlement programs.

But the salient point for this week is that the government can never sustainably provide for the needs of society. Politicians who recklessly approach every problem with a blank government check should be reminded who they are really putting at risk – the people they claim to be helping.

Our debt is out of control, and it will have very real consequences for each of us.

Bryan Griffin of the London Center for Policy Research is a lawyer and author who specializes in american policy in the middle east.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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