Raise your hand if you have ever borrowed money. Raise your hand if you currently have a loan. Raise your hand if the bank you borrowed the money from wanted to know if you had the ability to repay the loan.
Borrowing money is normal. We want a house, or a car, or want to open a business, or make improvements to or buy property. I am sure we have done all those things by borrowing money, but, in every single instance, the lending institution does their homework to ensure we could repay them — except if you are in Congress and spending someone else’s money.
Congress sets a debt limit every once in a while, setting up the rules for how much the United States can borrow. Well, that “once in a while” is here now, and it appears there will be another political struggle on whether to raise it or not.
And for good reason. Our current debt is nearing $32 trillion. Folks, that is a lot of money! I mean a LOT OF MONEY!
I have written in this column before, trying to explain what $1 trillion is. One million seconds ago was 12 days ago. One billion seconds was 32 years ago, and 1 trillion seconds ago was 32,0000 years ago. And, since we owe 30 times that amount, if our $32 trillion were seconds, it is nearly 1 million years ago.
Did I say we owe a lot of money?
To me, it makes a lot of sense to question raising the debt limit, because of one question that not a single member of Congress can answer, which is: “How and when will we repay this $32 trillion?”
I said it makes sense to question the debt limit, but we all know how the story will end. They will raise it, and they should raise it, because the country needs the money to meet its obligations.
But it shouldn’t end there.
We are living beyond our means, so, this time, they need to take the opportunity to get our fiscal house in order.
To start with, balance the dang budget. Figure out how much tax revenue will come in next year and don’t spend any more than that amount.
Sounds easy to me, but it’s not. That would mean we have to do one or two or both of these things to make it happen: One, drastically cut spending. Two, drastically raise taxes. Or do one and two combined.
None of those three options are likely to happen, because politicians in Washington, more than anything else they do or don’t do, like to be reelected. Cutting spending would be unpopular and put their jobs in jeopardy come next election. The same is true for raising taxes.
The Congressional Budget Office is a strict nonpartisan government body (if that is possible in Washington). The CBO says our interest payments are going up from $442 billion a year to $1.2 trillion a year over the next 10 years. There is that word “trillion” again, and, over that 10-year period, we will spend $8.1 trillion on interest payments alone.
That’s more than we currently spend on our entire military budget.
What are they thinking?
Congress has had these debt limit fights before. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had them with a Republican-controlled House. In both cases, the debt limit was increased, but not until after negotiating spending cuts, and I hope that’s how this current case unfolds.
Congress, regardless of which party is in control, is addicted to spending our money, our children’s money, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s money right now, and that, my friends, needs to stop.
But it won’t stop.
There is something mostly forgotten in Washington these days, and that is that this country belongs to us. We pay the bills. We elect people to represent our wishes, and, although I can’t speak for you, I am furious over those representatives spending our children’s future. No other generation has ever placed such a heavy burden on their kids. I often wonder how our Congress can sleep at night, willfully and knowingly doing that time after time.
I had breakfast with eight gentlemen this week. I didn’t know or care about their party affiliation. Did we talk politics? Of course, we did. Did we talk about the debt? Of course, we did. Did we solve the problem? No, we didn’t, but here’s what I walked away with: Those men had an immense love of our country. They have seen the best and much of the worst in our recent history. And I will make an assumption that the majority of Americans feel the same way.
Why is it we can sit down and have constructive conversations about our nation and throw out solutions by sitting around a table instead of sitting on the right side of it or the left side of it and Washington can’t?
Washington could learn a lot from the people if only they would listen, if only they would do what’s best for the people and the country, instead of their party, and only if they would do what they promised they would do if we gave them our vote.
Sure, they have a difficult job, but they volunteered for it, and it’s high time they sit “around” the table with their friends and foes and do the right thing, which, in this debt crisis — and, yes, I believe it is a crisis — means setting this country on a path unburdened by overwhelming debt and giving us a government that we both need and can afford.
That time is now.
That’s my 2 cents for the week, and, besides, I have to go work on my 2022 taxes right now. Apparently, Congress needs my money.
Feel free to weigh in on how we can balance the budget at email@example.com.
Greg Awtry is the former publisher of the Scottsbluff (Neb.) Star-Herald and Nebraska’s York News-Times. He is now retired and living in Hubbard Lake. Greg can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.