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Our National Debt

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As American consumers of mass media, we are often bombarded by the deluge of threats facing us today: poisonous toys, poisonous food, epidemics, hurricanes, global warming, terrorist attacks. With such a fearsome list, it’s a wonder anyone ever leaves their home. However, the most grave threat is arguably not a virus growing in a test tube somewhere, or a terrorist hiding in a cave halfway around the world, but quite simply our own indulgence. National debt currently exceeds $9 trillion ($9,000,000,000,000), and is growing every second, in fact, in the time it takes you to read this article, the United States will have borrowed about 2.6 million dollars. Drastic changes must be made to our countries spending patterns immediately, it not, the future of America could potentially be a government that is paralyzed by its exorbitant debt.

While national debt is an exceptionally complex issue, the basic principles are very simple to understand. The government gets the majority of its income from the American taxpayer. It then spends this money on various governmental operations including, the military, healthcare, infrastructure, and countless other government programs. But what happens when the government spends more money than it makes? It is forced to borrow money from other countries and starts to accumulate debt. The United States has been operating with national debt since the Jackson administration, however right now the government is accumulating debt at an unprecedented rate, and very soon it will become a very big problem

The problem is that the nation’s biggest age demographic is about to retire and cash in on the many entitlement programs promised to them. Baby boomers are anyone born approximately between the years 1945 and 1960, they represent an inconsistency in the distribution of the population that has given them enormous power. In a couple of years, the largest generation in the country will stop working, and start enjoying the benefits of Social Security and Medicare. Medicare is the main problem because people keep living longer and medical expenses keep rising. The Medicare program is far too expensive and terribly inefficient. David Walker is the nation’s comptroller general (top accountant) and says that, “We spend 50 percent more of our economy on health care than any nation on earth, [yet] we have the largest uninsured population of any major industrialized nation. We have above average infant mortality, below average life expectancy, and much higher than average medical error rates for an industrialized nation."

The problems created by baby boomers and Medicare are exacerbated by other irresponsible government spending. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan appears to have a total price tag of over one trillion dollars. Combine that with the sub-prime mortgage crisis, as well as the dollar’s plummeting value and it appears that the economy is teetering on the brink of another recession. Mr. Walker warns that by the year 2040, "If nothing changes, the federal government's not gonna be able to do much more than pay interest on the mounting debt and some entitlement benefits. It won't have money left for anything else – national defense, homeland security, education, you name it.”

This economic crisis is a looming disaster that deserves immediate attention, however many politicians refuse to discuss it. It has become a third rail among politicians, no one wants to touch it. To fix it would require drastic changes to many government programs. It would mean raising taxes and completing reforming Social Security as well as Medicare. These are monumental undertakings that no one wants to do, mentioning these ideas could make any politician unpopular. No one wants to make sacrifices now when the pay off would be as far as 20 or even 30 years down the road. Nevertheless, it is an issue that must be addressed.

As a single, powerless, citizen, it is difficult to begin change. The most important thing to do is spread awareness of the problem. David Walker has already started traveling the country with his own Al-Gore-like slideshow trying to spread public consciousness. Don’t support politicians who start unnecessary, outrageously expensive wars, but instead support those who preach a message of fiscal prudence. The current batch of politicians are bankrupting America at the expense of future generations. Walker notes, “We are mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren at record rates, and that is not only an issue of fiscal irresponsibility, it's an issue of immorality."





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