Drowning in Debt (090509) by J. F. Kelly, Jr.

A commentary by J. F. Kelly, Jr.

President Barack Obama, who won the presidency on a promise of change, has an ambitious domestic agenda. Trouble is, we can’t afford it. We are already living on credit, relying on foreign nations like China to finance the steadily increasing costs of running our rapidly expanding government.

Mr. Obama added significantly to the national debt he inherited with bailouts of the financial and automotive industries and by a stimulus package which has been of limited value in stimulating a recovery from the recession which he also had the bad luck to inherit.

Now comes the revelation from both the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office that the huge projected federal deficit during the coming decade will be about $2 trillion higher than estimated. Over the ten years it will add about $9 trillion to the national debt. Decreased tax revenues attributable to the prolonged business slump and persistent high unemployment could add even more to these deficits.

Understand that we are talking only about yearly deficits, not the total national debt itself. That is projected to amount to over $20 trillion by the end of the coming decade if these estimates hold up and if tax revenues don’t increase substantially.

Writing or saying “$20 trillion” comes too easy. To try to get a handle on the magnitude of that sum, we should be required to write it out with all the zeroes. That would be $20,000,000,000,000. It’s a sum that defies human comprehension and much of it will be owed to foreign nations who may not always have our best interests at heart.

It is unlikely that all of this debt will ever actually be repaid but that is beside the point. The interest on it must be paid. That interest currently consumes about one-eighth of our annual spending. If these projections hold up, it will soon grow to 25%. One out of every four dollars of federal spending will then go to pay interest on the federal debt. Entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will consume much of the rest, leaving less and less for infrastructure, defense and social programs such as those in Mr. Obama’s expansive and expensive domestic agenda.

This will likely result in still more borrowing, just to stay afloat. Tax increases will be inevitable and if the government chooses to monetize the debt away by printing more money, rampant inflation will soon decimate savings and devastate those on fixed incomes. The United States, already a debtor nation, will lose ground rapidly in the competitive global economy to those nations like China who are able to save, invest and control the size and expense of their governments. Our status as a superpower will almost inevitably decline since no country can live beyond its means indefinitely and prosper.

That our politicians are letting this happen is disgraceful. It is their spending that is digging this hole for our children and grandchildren. But politicians today seem motivated mainly by a desire to cling to office and the sense of power that control over others’ money brings. We the voters are not blameless for letting them get away with it, knowing that it is future generations who will pay the price for our extravagance.

What to do? We must somehow make it clear to our representatives that the size of the current deficit ($1.58 trillion), the projected $9 trillion in additional deficits and the growing total national debt is of urgent concern to us. While specific reforms to health care insurance coverage are desirable, primarily focused on helping citizens who, through no fault of their own, are losing or cannot obtain health insurance, we simply cannot afford a costly major overhaul. Nor can we afford expensive alternative energy programs requiring government subsidies or cap and trade carbon emission control programs that impose additional burdens on a still-struggling industrial sector.

It is Mr. Obama’s misfortune that he inherited a fragile economy. He made many campaign promises that helped get him elected and that he understandably wants to keep. Unfortunately for him, we cannot afford them and arguments that we can pay for them by just eliminating waste and inefficiency and taxing the rich are transparently false. They will inevitably require tax increases for the middle class and businesses which will be an enormous additional burden on a recovering economy, increased foreign borrowing and in the case of a major healthcare overhaul, rationing of services and severe reductions in Medicare funding.

Copyright 2009 by J. F. Kelly, Jr.

Views: 9

Tags: current events, obama, politics

Comment by Jim Desai on September 5, 2009 at 5:59pm
Where were you for the past 8 years?

The Bush admin inherited a small budgetary surplus, and turned that into the biggest budget deficit in history. All this $$trillions wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan could have paid for healthcare reform 5 times over.

No hypocrisy please. Don't add insult to injury
Comment by Heather Street on September 8, 2009 at 8:26am
Do you think it fair to take on the largest debt of ill spend money in all of history and then have to listen to a bunch of whiners complain about a job of cleaning up the last President's bad choices that will take many more years than most of us will ever see? Give our President a chance Stop complaining and pitch in by standing behind this man. You all did it for one of the worst evil lairs. Get off the pot and be an American. It seems to me that You Mr Kelly and the rest of you should be ashamed. Back in the day others might think you all might be classified as NON AMERICAN There are other importances out there. How can any of you sleep at night. Answer this What Do you Do for others. Sitting there on your little keyboards is not cutting it. There are people out there in the real who have nothing do the the shabby shameless way this country has been run in the last 8 or more years. Might you complainers go make a ton of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and go over to downtown and give yes give not charge them to our nations hungry They might not be on the streets if President Bush { and take notice} had Stopping wasting our tax money on what he wanted in total disrespect or others which bring me to this Show respect the Name is President NOT Mr.
Comment by Heather Street on September 8, 2009 at 8:37am
and the word is disastrous not fragile
Comment by Jim Desai on September 8, 2009 at 8:39am
In addition to being President of the United States, President Obama is also Mr. Kelly's Commander in Chief.

What does the US Navy teach its officers about

Rule of law.
Respect for the Commander in Chief.
Basic understanding of the US Constitution?
Respect for our American Values?

A very poor example for our young ensigns, I must say.
Comment by Heather Street on September 8, 2009 at 9:43am
Just hearing our President,s speech SHAME ON ALL OF YOU who are ANTI AMERICAN in wanting to denying our cherished youth from hearing such an inspiring uplifting goal aiming idea that no other President except one has taken the time to express Yes you children do have hope in our future as REAL AMERICANS the leaders of tomorrow. Before YOU comment with YOUR NON-AMERICAN jibber go take a walk. People please be careful of those who speak badly of OUR nation. Back in the sixties we as children went taught to fear NON AMERICANS and their little dirty talk of putting down the leaders of our country. GOD BLESS AMERICA and shame shame shame on those without unity. STAND BESIDE HER AND GUIDE HER not slander. If you don't like it leave!
Comment by Jim Desai on September 8, 2009 at 3:58pm

Your idea about the peanut butter sandwiches brought a welcome smile. That was original.

Perhaps it would be better if Mr. Kelly voluntarily went to Afghanistan.

We need good men out there, and as an added bonus, Mr Kelly would find many Afghans in that country, with similar viewpoints on constitutional democracy and similar feelings towards America and our President Obama.
Comment by Heather Street on September 8, 2009 at 9:45pm
talking of higher taxing,,,just have a 10% tax on everyone. we could then all pay our own share from the richest to the poorest. It would be quite fair one would think. and why not let each of us have better health care. The big mouths just hear parts of the idea then start blabbing not comprehending the all. Listen before you leap ring a bell?

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