Guest Editorial: US debt worse than advertised
It has been about one month since congressional Republicans caved in on the national debt limit and approved a two-year budget, which conveniently suspended the debt limit until March 2017, just after the 2016 elections – and the spending floodgates have already opened up. In just those few weeks, spending has surged by nearly $600 billion, raising the official national debt to more than $18.7 trillion.
During President Barack Obama’s tenure, the national debt has increased more than $8 trillion, and by the time he leaves office it is on pace to nearly double from the $10.6 trillion tab in January 2009. During this time, the debt has gone from about 60 percent of gross domestic product – roughly where it hovered for most of the 1990s and 2000s – to more than 100 percent of GDP.
Yet, even this does not paint the full picture of taxpayers’ obligations, as many liabilities are held off the books. According to David Walker, who served as comptroller general of the United States and head of the U.S. Government Accountability Office during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, the national debt is actually about three and a half times the official statistic.
“If you end up adding to that $18.5 trillion the unfunded civilian and military pensions and retiree health care, the additional underfunding for Social Security, the additional underfunding for Medicare, various commitments and contingencies that the federal government has, the real number is about $65 trillion rather than $18 trillion, and it’s growing automatically, absent reforms,” Walker told radio host John Catsimatidis on “The Cats Roundtable” on New York’s AM 970, The Hill reported.
During the interview, Walker said Americans have “lost touch with reality” on government spending. This is equally true for the politicians who continue to hike spending.
Higher taxes will be needed to pay for the growing debt burden, particularly as the Federal Reserve eventually allows interest rates to rise. That means more of our dollars will go toward paying down the debt, and not purchasing the things we need, saving to assure a sound retirement or making the investments needed to grow the economy.
With apparently little principle or self-discipline of their own, politicians will continue this spending binge until responsible adults tell them “No!”