Reality of crippling national debt
Every few years it’s smart to look at the state of the country in terms of the debt it’s carrying. Actually, that’s not smart. Plugging the hemorrhaging hole would be smart. Americans are not.
We ran up our first national debt during the Revolutionary War. Since then, the only time it was ever paid off was Jan. 1, 1835, when President Andrew Jackson cleared the tab.
But in 1836, it had “ballooned” to $37,000.
Debt lollygagged around, but always was climbing, until the Civil War, when an 1860 debt of $65 million rose to $1 billion by 1864.
National debt often is looked at as a percentage of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. The national debt, in terms of GDP, reached the all-time high during and after World War II. The record low, as a percentage of GDP, was during the Nixon era and has climbed ever since — other than holding firm during the presidencies of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
The Regan tax cuts, combined with military spending, fired up the debt boiler once again.
According to Investor’s Business Daily and the Wall Street Journal, our national debt was $20 trillion early last year. Others report slightly different figures, but a trillion here, a trillion there — what’s really the difference.
How much is $1 trillion? 1,000,000,000,000 dollars.
Paying that off seems impossible. In 2017, it took $263 billion to pay a single year’s interest. That was 6.6 percent of all federal spending.
And that is the good news.
As the Fed turns the screws on interest rates, each percentage point hike adds $200 billion to interest payments.
The Congressional Budget office estimates the interest will rise to $915 billion by 2028. In contemporary terms, that’s 166 $5.5 billion walls.
In addition to the hard debt, accumulating debt for entitlement programs is growing as well, and faster. Social Security and Medicare already are running in the red. The CBO says over the next 30 years those programs will run a cash deficit of another $82 trillion.
And yet, no national politician we can name has ever spoken the “D” word since Ross Perot made a real political plank of it back in 1992.
There’s more, like the effect high debt ratios have on the GDP — slowing growth dramatically or sending it spiraling.
The Republicans like to talk about tax-and-spend Democrats, but they’re shooting blanks. Remember, the last time our debt stayed flat was the Clinton era. From Reagan on, we’ve been circling the financial drain. But it’s all of them — Democrats and Republicans. And, we can’t recall any third-party candidates making debt a political issue either. They all just want to dip our poison from different cups.
But this is a track that ends. And when we hit it, we will be a severely crippled nation.
A version of this editorial first appeared in the Gainesville Sun, a Destin Log sister paper with GateHouse Media.