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One Nation Under Debt

national debt security

Yoga classes for bureaucrats. Brown snake eradication program. Congressional pensions. Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. Those are actual lines in recent federal budgets totaling $150,000, $668,000, $38 million, and $65 million respectively.

All are “chump change” compared to $363 billion (with a “b”) to be spent this year on interest on the debt. That’s $53 billion higher than last year, a 17% increase. Interest payments are now 8% of the budget and increasing, crowding out vital programs and priorities. 

What do Americans get for $363 billion? Absolutely nothing. Interest is the price paid for decades of spending beyond revenues, as finance charges on credit cards pay for privileges to spend beyond one’s income.

The federal budget deficit will hit $984 billion for the year ending September 30 and could top $1 trillion. Add interest to spending on the four largest programs— Social Security, Defense/Veterans, Medicare, and Medicaid, and you reach 82 percent of the entire budget. These are precisely the programs politicians say must not be touched. Even Social Security, self-funded through payroll taxes, ran a deficit in 2018. That will continue until it reaches insolvency in 2034. Past surpluses are allowing it to continue without benefit cuts now.

What if you eliminated every item other than “The Big Four”? While no one would advocate that, you still could not reach balance. And “everything else” is a lot—air traffic controllers, parks, disease research, FBI, and federal courts and prisons, to list a pittance of programs and agencies. The Congressional Budget Office projects the U.S. will pay more in interest to service debt than it will spend on Defense in five years.

All past deficits equal today’s $22 trillion national debt, $66,000 for every citizen and $178,000 per taxpayer. Tax cuts, wars, and economic stimulus have each added trillions. Both parties deserve blame.

The insanity cannot continue much longer. Consider a mortgage where a borrower pays interest only and keeps passing the loan down generation to generation such that no one pays back principal.  What bank would ever agree to never getting its money? Or, picture lending money to an individual or business that comes back for more funds each year. At some point any sane person would fear not getting back what was lent (let alone interest owed) and put a stop to further lending.

Creditors of the U.S. government will reach the same conclusion. Fully 45 percent of debt held by the public is owned by foreign investors. China is the largest single holder. Creditors will demand higher interest rates as the risk increases to loan the U.S. money. The catastrophe to our entire financial system will be when investors simply have no confidence in lending to the U.S. government at all.

What then? “Then” is too late. AMAC advocates for reducing federal spending now and has even taken the tough but necessary stand to preserve and modernize Social Security. AMAC now calls for the creation of a fund to eliminate the debt and strengthen our nation. 

First, Congress and the President must do their part and balance the budget. That stops adding to the $22 trillion. Second, citizens can do their part. The debt cannot be eliminated in years or even decades. But we can start with “America’s Security Fund”

AMAC urges America’s Fortune 500 companies help save the country. A “we didn’t cause this problem” is no excuse. As an integral part of the economy, companies must be involved. If each contributed $1 million, $500 million would be collected. A $2 million contribution yields $1 billion. Individuals could contribute on tax forms with an added line. 

Contributions to “America’s Security Fund” would not be tax deductible and could be spent for debt reduction only after the federal budget is balanced. The fund would be overseen by a Board, chaired by the Treasury Secretary and prominent Americans from the public and private sectors, academia, unions, large corporations, and business.

Publicity is vital. Research shows people donate to causes if they know others are doing so. AMAC will inform its membership. We look to government, civic and religious groups, and businesses to aid in this enterprise America’s future depends on it.  

The Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) is a senior benefits organization with 1.7 million members.  Jeff Szymanski works in AMAC Political Communications and taught economics for 15 years at Walpole High School in Walpole, MA.

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Kim

Are you kidding me, Jeff/AMAC? You want to create another revenue-guzzling government department so we can assuage our guilt for building our own companies?? Do you really think this “corporate privilege” hoax is gonna fly when you’re asking companies to donate millions of their profits?? Any paltry donations made to this cause will be the size of a flea compared to a blue whale. I don’t mind donating VOLUNTARILY to the WeBuildTheWall fund and to other causes I CHOOSE to donate to, and I certainly think our legislators should have been cutting spending all along. But not attacking the problem WHERE THE PROBLEM LIES (in Congress), and asking the public once again to fork it over is the height of folly. I expected more from you, AMAC. This is the type of thing we hear from the other side… President Trump at one point suggested cutting 5% across the board.… Read more »

BajaRon

National debt. National disgrace. Everyone talks about it. But no one is willing to actually DO anything about it. That is because no matter what you do, it’s going to make someone unhappy. And happiness, at any and all expense, (even if it means the destruction of America), is the primary thing.

We know we are spending money that we don’t have on things that we do not need. That is called stupidity. And stupid has dire consequences.

Press ONE for English

Let’s take this idea at face value, run with it and see where we end up. Everyone buys in (somehow, don’t ask me how that will happen) and contributes the full amount, and $1B is raised, and all of it is used to pay down the debt. And to sweeten the deal, let’s say that all of the money is used to pay down principal not interest. This is good, right? But what happens next? Congress, seeing that our debt has actually gone DOWN for once, see this as a license to go on a borrowing/spending spree, and before we know it we will be in even deeper trouble than before, and the chumps who paid in to this madness will be furious, and rightly so. What’s wrong with this numbskull plan is, it does NOTHING to address the underlying problem. That is a significant proportion of the populace (a… Read more »

Gerald Malley

I notice that you include Social Security as contributing to the national debt. How much adjustment to that statement was made for the amounts paid out of that system for benefits paid out for individuals who did not pay in to the system? Isn’t this the source for funding quite a lot of the social welfare programs?

PaulE

This was a pretty good article outlining the size, scope and ramifications of our exploding national debt. Which is quite a rarity for AMAC these days. Then the article goes completely off the rails and proposes yet another big government solution. A solution which requires what is essentially another tax (no matter how you try to dress it up otherwise AMAC), that will supposedly be deposited in a “fund” and administered, yet again, by a mix of government officials, members of academia, union leaders and a sprinkling of business executIves that will no doubt be politically hand selected for being “on board with the plan and agenda”. Seriously AMAC, does anyone at your organization even understand the principles of fiscal or constitutional conservatism or is your slogan just marketing nonsense?

S. Dexter Limbacher

You’re going to educate the population to convince the “engine” that makes the economy work to spend more to bailout the country. Why? Because corporations have the most to lose?
We’d be better served to educate the country that each and every one of us is first responsible for our own welfare and stop expecting bale-outs.
The answer is so simple an eight year old can figure it out (but a member of Congress can’t). Stop spending more money than you have.

Jean

There is no reason for us to be paying for pensions for bureaucrats. An elected “representative” was never meant to be a lifetime career. They should not have any hand in deciding their own salaries either. Enough of our money is wasted funding frivolous grants to study unnecessary curiosities and third world dictators and it should be redirected toward things that really matter to our citizenry.

Stephen Russell

No party is eliminating Debt, see CAGW.org platform alone & share.
We have enough Govt waste to build 2 walls on the border & build up our infrastucture alone & NOT raise taxes & maybe fund some NGD ideas??
See CAGW.org.
Do math since estd under GraceComm.
From 80s to date.
CUT debt, fund services.

Dave

Note to AMAC: read all the accompanying comments. They are all right on! Pay particular attention to thoughts about congress where all spending is controlled, but in reality is totally out of control. Congressional pensions are ridiculous. Spending is often even more ridiculous. The sad part is that we all know it but the train rolls on with little or no correction in sight. AMAC should be spending more effort on exposing individual politicians on BOTH sides of the aisle.

David Campbell

Collecting more revenue by whatever means is no solution. The problem is on the spending side. And the spending problem is rooted in the fact that the ability to spend money is power to politicians. They are in politics in the first place because they like power. Therefor the only solution is to reduce the power of government. The current government operates FAR beyond it’s constitutionally enumerated powers. Returning government to its restricted powers is the only solution.

Sharon

I don’t trust the government to handle any money, collected in any way. If we had only honest people who had the country’s best interest in mind running the government we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.

Lee

America’s Security Fund. Sure. And they’d find a way to borrow (permanently) from that, too. Just like they did Social Security. Those “little” extras in the budget, such as Yoga, etc., should be eliminated. They aren’t much separately but would add up and be that much less that would need to be borrowed. Such greedy people in DC!

Concerned

I would leave, but there is no better place to live. These folks, the folks in our government, Federal, State, County and City, need to stop the increases in both spending and taxing and start focusing some on what they spend our money on, and how they can trim that down some. Again, increasing our level of debt is not only Stupid, but very Dangerous to our survival.

bigbadjohn

I am 84 years old and have worked in industry for many years. This system is set up so that departments have an annual budget and at the end of their fiscal year they must scurry around to spend all of their budget or they will not get as much next year. And we can’t have that!!!!

All department heads and committee heads must get a big incentive to save funds.

They should get a cut in wages or freeze them. Then offer a substantial bonus for staying UNDER budget. This bonus would be a percentage of what was saved, with the requirement that 50/60??? percent of this bonus go to their staff.

I see this as the only possible way to reduce the debt, What do you think??

Randy

How about taxing politicians on their political contributions & using that money to fund this debt reduction concept?
Also, how about taxing the RNC & DNC?

Bob W.

Did I just read above that Congress voted themselves $668M for their retirement benefits?

Keith H

Dirtbag politicians, their all Crooks !! We have a few good ones but for the most part “THEIR ALL CROOKS”. And as long as there able to stay term after term. Nothing will ever change !! I truly believe it is time as American Citizens that we actively stop paying our taxes !! Stop totally !! They don’t listen to us anymore. We have to band together and march on Washington and shut it down. But that takes effort and I don’t think people really care that much. We as a coordinated group have to make them change !! Or bend over and keep taking it.

Pete Harju

Since the time that Alexander Hamilton became the First Secretary of The U.S. Treasury the economy under the federal government has been built on debt. The 1913 Woodrow Wilson signing The Federal Reserve Act, establishing the Federal Reserve System, assured that the U.S. economy would always be funded by debt and any attempts to change it would, through severe actions, be brought to an end. In the words of Gordon Gekko “Greed is good”.

F L Dodd

How many people does a district have to add another rep to the house, We need to fix this it is not 1776. We have way too many representatives. We must stop supporting illegal immigrants right this min. Matter of fact immigration should be frozen for ten years. Welfare for all people that can work should become workfare and get people off that. Cut the amount of government workers, freeze anymore parks for a period. Sale any government land and buildings not necessary.

D Noles

You can’t fix stupid!