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Monday, May 05, 2008

National Debt

Call me a worry wart. Call me a pessimist. Call me someone who "just doesn't get it." But please - call me and explain to me why America shouldn't be worried about our national debt. I really would like to understand.

With the presidential elections underway and the political mudslinging, I wonder if we have even identified the real issues to argue about. Is America selling its soul to the devil? Can democracy really work in the long run? Why can't the United States pay its own way in the world without a vicious addiction to credit? And isn't it ironic that while we don't talk about these things, America is in the midst of a "credit crisis!"

Let's take a look at some facts about the federal debt of the United States. (Keep in mind we're not talking about any debt that states, counties, cities or townships carry.) As of today, the federal government of the United States is in debt to the tune of $9,352,044,096,140.51. That's more than $9 trillion - in case you've never seen a number that big

So how much is that? Well, it equates to about $30,769.76 for every man, woman and child alive in the United States today. Can we pay it off? Ever? Well, for more than 40 years, we've not paid a cent on the principal. For more than 40 years we have just borrowed more each year. We pay the interest of course - and borrow more.

Speaking of interest, isn't it expensive? According to the U.S. Treasury (, the average interest rate on the outstanding forms of debt at the end of March 2008 was about 4.215%. So how much is that? It equates to an annual interest payment of about $1,296.95 per year for every man, woman and child alive in the U.S. today. Put another way, it costs the U.S. government $394,188,658,652.32 in interest this year (as the debt grows, the interest payments grow each year as well). In 2008, our government will spend $1,079,968,927.81 every single day paying interest on its debt. Put another way, that's $44,998,705.33 per hour!

Folks, do you get the sense that we're talking about real money here? Do you know that an increasingly substantial portion of this debt is held by governments that are not our allies (like China's central bank)? I don't know about you, but I for one think this needs to be an issue for national discussion.

Quite frankly, the national debt scares me even more than its numbers. I know we are borrowing more every single day just to keep America humming along "like normal" - if there is such a thing. I know that we're in the midst of a very expensive war that is far from over. I notice in the papers that our government is financing the bailout of the mortgage industry - much like it bailed out the S&L industry a few years ago. I know that our Social Security administration is heading for a massive bailout before it collapses and leaves our elderly on the streets in a few years. I also realize that the world is getting more hostile and that we could end up in the middle of more costly wars in the not-too-distant future.

Are we ready, America? Do we have our ducks in a row? Are we ready to sail into the future, confident, prepared and strong? Or are we limping along like lame ducks ready to be picked off by our enemies. Our transportation infrastructure is crumbling. Our economy is on its knees as the Middle East sucks the cash out of America to finance its dream (and build more Islamic mosques in America). Frankly, it seems like this would be a good time to be ready for just about anything.

Mrs. Clinton, Mr. McCain, Mr. Obama, Mrs. Pelosi, Mr. Cheney - can any of you explain this to me? Do any of you have answers or have a plan to get America strong and sturdy? In my lifetime is it unrealistic to think that America might live within its means and begin to pay back some of this national debt?

I'm just a man who loves his country and has some questions here. So call me naive. Call me a pessimist. But please - call me - with some answers.

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