OP/ED: No Debt Limit Hike for Now
June 2, 2011 (Chattanooga Times/Free Press, Tenn.) It is appalling how little serious concern there is these days among many of our national leaders -- and among many Americans -- over the fact that the U.S. government is roughly $14.3 trillion in debt.
We have already technically passed the congressionally mandated debt "limit" of $14.294 trillion, though some "creative" federal accounting can keep the government from risking default on its obligations until Aug. 2.
Exactly how do we write out that huge amount? How many zeroes does it take to express all those thousands, millions, billions and trillions? Like this: Our current legal debt limit is $14,294,000,000,000!
--There is no indication of a national determination, much less an agreed-upon congressional plan, to spend less.
--There is no agreed-upon plan to enact immediate tax increases to reduce debt.
And, as we saw in the U.S. House of Representatives this week, there is little appetite for congressional action to increase the debt limit. In a vote on raising the limit by $2.4 trillion, only 97 members of the House were in favor, while 318 were against.
So the limit remains at $14.294 trillion.
What will Congress do between now and Aug. 2, when even the cleverest accounting may no longer be able to put off painful consequences? We all should be very interested to find out.
Do you think higher taxes -- which have led to higher spending in the past and would choke off economic growth -- are the answer? Or do you think Congress should simply vote to raise the debt limit, then keep on spending? Isn't that just more of what got us in economic trouble in the first place?
And remember: With our national debt so huge, we already are paying hundreds of billions of dollars a year in taxes just to cover the interest payments. That's money taken out of the productive private sector, where it could be creating jobs.
Back when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was in office and debt was also enormous but not nearly what it is now, he famously said, "We only owe it to ourselves."
Did that make the debt less serious? It didn't mean we wouldn't have to repay it, eventually -- and pay taxes to cover the interest in the meantime.
Well, we now owe more than $14 trillion -- but "to whom"? Are you comfortable with the fact that we owe foreigners about half of that amount? The largest holders of U.S. debt are -- hold on to your hats -- Communist China, Japan and Britain!
How can we, the richest nation in the world, be willing to owe so much to those and other countries?
Shouldn't the first step in managing our debt be to quit increasing it? Then shouldn't the next step, though painful, be to reduce the debt?
That doesn't even appear to be in prospect.
Are you concerned? Do you believe our past and current presidents and members of Congress should have avoided getting us into this mess? Do you believe we should insist that the current president and members of Congress at least begin to address the problem now?
Or are you comfortable with the way things are and content to hope that everything will somehow just turn out?
"We, the people" should decide -- because "we, the people" are going to have to pay, one way or another!