By Jim Whitt
A few years ago I had the privilege of sharing the platform at a speaker showcase with comedian Tom Ryan. Tom can take a very serious subject, like being in debt, and make it very funny. For example:
“I am heavily in debt. Right now my goal in life is to be just broke. I want to get back to zero. How’s that for a pathetic dream? Someday, I’m going to have nothing. I’m going to leave it to my kids. None of this is all yours. Don’t squander it!”
Tom could have just as well been describing the state of our nation’s finances. I hear people talk about our country going broke and leaving all the debt to our children. Forget about leaving the debt to our children. We are more than $14.5 trillion from being just broke right now. This is not a new development. “Alexander Hamilton started the U.S. Treasury with nothing,” said Will Rogers, “and that was the closest our country has ever been to being even.”
It’s hard to comprehend how much $14.5 trillion is so we have to stop thinking in terms of our debt as a nation and start thinking in terms of my debt as a taxpayer. People tend to forget it’s our money. If you are a U.S. citizen your share of the debt is more than $46,000, but don’t worry. Not all citizens pay taxes. If you are a taxpayer, you should worry because your share of the debt is more than $130,000. That means you are shouldering your share of the debt plus another $84,000 in debt for non-taxpaying citizens (I couldn’t find any figures for people living in our country who are not citizens).
This is just your debt. It doesn’t include what you are paying each year in taxes. Keep in mind these are national figures. It doesn’t include your share of your state’s debt or what you pay in state and local taxes.
Your portion of that debt is growing by the second. We’re overspending our national budget by about $1.5 trillion a year and keep in mind that budget is about $2.2 trillion. If you want to do something really scary go to http://www.usdebtclock.org/ and you can watch our debt grow in real time. As the numbers increase before your very eyes you’ll start to get an idea of just what a problem we, fellow taxpayers, really have.
If that doesn’t scare you, think about this. When people my age were kids our mothers told us to clean our plates because kids in China were going hungry. Now, China is the largest single foreign holder of U.S. government debt. In May 2011 it held almost 26 percent of all foreign-held Treasury securities. It’s not bad enough that we’re in debt — China is our banker.
So, what’s a logical solution to this problem? Let’s raise the debt ceiling so we can increase our debt. You don’t like that solution? How about this? Let’s raise taxes. Don’t like that solution? Let’s do both! You don’t like that either? Oh, come on — that’s what we’ve always done in the past. As Dr. Phil might ask, “How’s that working for us?” It was Albert Einstein who said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
While I’m on the subject of insanity here’s a crazy idea. For starters, let’s stop spending more than we take in. That will keep from adding to the debt. Then let’s cut spending across the board by, oh let’s say by 10%, for starters. It’s not much but it’s a start. You see, like Tom Ryan, I have a pathetic dream. I think we should set a goal of just being broke. I want to get back to zero.
If we don’t start right now, someday, and it might be sooner than we think, Chinese mothers will be telling their kids to clean their plates — because kids in America are going hungry.
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