Thursday, October 24, 2013

Focus on national debt is imperative

It may not be as exciting as railing against the evils of big business or Obamacare, but the most important issue facing the country remains the national debt.

It is not so much what it is doing to us today as what it could do to us in the future.

We have the relatively fresh examples of Greece and Cyprus before us, and some say it is silly to compare these weak, second-rate countries to the greatness of the United States.

But the principles are the same. We caught a glimpse of this in recent days as the debt ceiling issue reached its climax. Suddenly, world demand for our short-term Treasuries dropped sharply.

When the crisis comes it will come without warning, as Alan Simpson and Erksine Bowles explained in their landmark report on the national debt nearly three years ago.

Now Congress has charged itself to come up with a budget that reduces government deficits 10 years into the future. The odds of this happening are virtually non-existent, not just because of Republican tea partiers, however. The Democratic left is equally vehement. For instance, it has dug in its heals on one of the most basic elements of any deficit reduction plan, something everyone should be able to agree on, adopting the so-called  chained Consumer Price Index for Social Security.

Frankly, if the nation can’t agree on this, it can’t agree on anything. That’s unfortunate, because it is the younger generation that will pay the price.

It should be remembered that just reducing  annual deficits will do nothing to reduce the national debt, which on the morning of Oct. 24 was exactly $17,078,769,687,926.64. Only eliminating deficits and producing surpluses will address the national debt, which is the accumulation of all of the annual deficits.

Of course it will require both cutting spending and increasing taxes in some form to achieve the goals. But there are numerous modest proposals out there for doing so. The nonpartisan Concord Coalition is full of them.

Focusing on our national debt ought to be the top priority of our government in Washington D.C. Nothing else — not terrorism, Russia or Iran — is a greater a threat to us.

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