As a young grade-schooler in the 1980s, I was fond of watching The Three Stooges show before departing for another eventful day of fun-filled learning at my local government school. I hated getting up that early, and still do, but at least a little slapstick comedy while eating breakfast would lessen the pain.
I remember one episode fondly. Moe, Larry, and Curly embarked on a duck-hunting trip on a nearby lake. While sitting in the boat awaiting the ducks, Curly, earnestly trying to get his gun to fire, accidentally shot a hole in the bottom of the boat. As water gushed in and pandemonium ensued, Larry devised a quick solution: He shot another hole in his end of the boat to let the water run out!
Now we all know how monumentally stupid such a move would be but is our federal government, whether in the hands of Republicans or Democrats, not doing precisely the same thing in regards to our economy – A Three Stooges approach.
Sluggish growth and chronic deficits caused by too much spending, too much currency inflation, too much borrowing is being fought with more spending, more debt, more inflation, more borrowing, and who really knows when it will end.
No one with at least a thimble full of common sense could possibly think such a plan could continue. Only the fiscal stooges in Washington. This is something that must change.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the federal government used different methods to solve economic woes – laissez faire conservatism. Wars and depressions did invariably strike, and debts naturally mounted, but when the storms were over Washington tightened its belt and paid down debt. So then when the next storm struck, and inevitably it would, the nation was in a much better position to weather it.
Today we spend in good times as well as bad and have a $20 trillion national debt to show for our efforts – that’s more than $61,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country and $167,000 per taxpayer – and estimates show it could climb to $28 trillion by 2025, if not slowed or stopped.
How big is a trillion you might ask? If we wanted to pay down just one trillion dollars of the national debt, paying one dollar a second, it would take about 32,000 years. A stack of $100 bills totaling $1 million would be about 4 feet high. A billion dollars, 4,000 feet high. But a trillion dollars would extend 789 miles out into space. And remember, we now have 20 of those stacks to pay back!
But let me make it even worse. Added to our national debt, which is money we have already spent, we can include more than $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities, future obligations to programs like Medicare and Social Security. State and local commitments, like pensions, add trillions more to the tab. This is money over and above what is necessary to run the government and its programs. That’s what we have done to our children and grandchildren. Massive debt hangs over our heads like an enormous boulder, held up by a thread, just waiting to fall.
And how is Congress working on the problem? It’s not, unfortunately. Even though Republicans control Congress, we can’t get serious budget reductions enacted. It seems our illustrious leaders have decided to continue spending more than $1 billion a day in deficit, running that tab to more than $450 billion a year.
The latest omnibus bill did not reduce spending one cent and Trump’s budget blueprint for his first fiscal year, beginning October 1, is projecting the same deficit we have now. No change. Not exactly the kind of reforms we need.
In his book The Debt Bomb, former Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma opined that because of our fiscal policies we have no more than 5 years before a major financial meltdown, and he wrote that in 2012.
Coburn’s biggest fear is an increase in interest rates. Since we are borrowing huge sums at just 2 percent interest, costing us $230 billion in interest a year. But if the rate rises to its historic level of 6 percent, then our interest payments will triple to nearly $700 billion a year, and we will be in big trouble almost immediately.
If Senator Coburn is right, and I believe he is, then we must quit the Three Stooges silliness, stop blowing more holes in our boat, and finally get serious about our debt problem or face a disaster far worse than anything we’ve seen in the past, and experts are predicting just that.
We’re going to have a new debt ceiling fight coming soon, and I’m sure Congress will simply raise it without restraints on spending. But Congress and President Trump must get tough on spending soon. We’ve kicked the can down the road for the last time.