Bryan Clapper: Cut up the national credit cardPublished 12:40am Saturday, February 6, 2010
Would you tell your friend to stop shopping and seek help?
Our national debt is $7.75 trillion, and President Barack Obama’s proposed federal budget is $3.8 trillion, with only two-thirds of that spending covered by taxes. The other third will be put on our already overburdened national credit card.
Just making our current minimum payments – the interest on the federal debt – costs nearly $400 billion a year. That would be like $420 of the $4,200 in pre-tax salary your theoretical friend makes each month going to pay just the minimum payment on his credit card bills.
I hate to continually go back to talking about the idiocy of the federal government – I’d much rather write about local things in my column – but this is utter lunacy that our kids and grandchildren and generations after them will foot the bill for. With the way we’re headed, we’re either going to have to drastically raise taxes or drastically reduce government services once our credit line runs out. What will it do to the economy if in a single year individual tax rates jump 5, 10 or even 15 percent? Similarly, what will happen to our economy if tens of thousands of federal employees are laid off suddenly?
The best course of action would seem to be gradually reducing services to keep federal spending at current levels, but given the dramatic growth of the government under our last two presidents, even that would cause a shock to the economy.
We’re in dire financial straits, folks, and not enough people are mad about it.
I’m all for a constitutional amendment that at least scales back how much of federal spending we’re able to finance through public debt. I don’t think it would be wise to pass a so-called balanced budget amendment now that completely shuts off that source at once, but if we scale back 5 percent each year from the 30 percent the president’s budget would add to the public debt this year, we would end up with far more reasonable spending.
Yes, it would probably mean higher taxes initially. However, think of it this way: If you cut up all of your credit cards and could only spend the cash available to you, would you go out to dinner as often? Would you take that second family vacation of the year? Would you splurge on “retail therapy” just because you had a bad day? If we scale down the public debt option and taxpayers see their taxes rise every time their elected officials increase spending, might those same taxpayers take a harder look at what we’re actually spending?
Right now, most Americans aren’t all that concerned with earmarks, increases in defense spending and thousands of new federal jobs – in the same way that some people might think a new TV isn’t a huge purchase because it will only add a few dollars to the minimum monthly payments on their credit cards. But if every new federal dollar comes out of their paychecks, I’m assuming most Americans will say a $1.8 million water taxi service in Connecticut could be funded privately.
Is it a perfect system? No. Is it better than what we currently have? I dare say it couldn’t be any worse.
I’m not some raving Libertarian lunatic who says nothing should be funded by the federal government – my belief is that we need to take a harder look at what we’re spending taxpayers’ money on, and maybe a bill that gives us a balanced budget somewhere down the line will help us do that.
Bryan Clapper is publisher of Leader Publications. He can be reached at 687-7700 or at bryan.clapper@leaderpub. com.