How big of a problem is the current national debt? To answer this question, we must understand the terminology that is used when discussing the debt, and then utilize perspective to fully appreciate the numbers that we will be dealing with. A surplus occurs the government spends less money than was collected in taxes during a single year. A deficit is when the government spends more money than was collected in taxes during a single year. The national debt is the total amount of money that is borrowed through the years to pay for any deficit in the annual budget, minus any surpluses that are used to pay down the debt.
According to NationalPriorities.org, as of December 15, 2015, the national debt was $18.8 trillion and the annual budget for FY 2015 was $3.8 trillion. This means that the national debt is roughly five times the amount of the entire federal budget. Imagine a family that makes $40,000 a year, but carries $200,000 in credit card debt, and one starts to have a good understanding of the mess that America is in. The first step of getting out of this debt is to start running an annual surplus in the federal budget.
The highest surplus in modern history, according to InsideGov.com was $290 billion attained by President Bill Clinton in 2000. If politicians could compromise enough to attain that surplus again, it would take almost 65 years for the debt to be paid off. It would be a little short of that if we rolled the savings from the interest saved while paying the principle down into the surplus, but that would be paying more than $290 billion a year. This is the perspective being taken, to keep the numbers easier to understand.
This just leaves us the challenge of finding $290 billion in the Federal Budget, right? Wrong. In 2016 the federal budget ended with a deficit of $552 billion. So, in order to attain the surplus of $290 billion we need to find and eliminate $842 billion. While this is challenging, it is not impossible; after all the Federal Annual Budget is $3.8 trillion, so we just need to drop the $.8 trillion right? Where do we start?
What would it take to recover this amount and attain a surplus?
Let us put that in perspective. Here are programs that are listed as “discretionary spending” in the federal budget from 2015 numbers:
The ENTIRE U.S. Military Budget: $598 Billion
Education Spending: $70 Billion
Medicare & Health: $66 Billion
VA Benefits: $65 Billion
Energy & Environment: $41 Billion
Science: $30 Billion
Social Security, Unemployment, & Labor: $29 Billion
Transportation: $26 Billion
Food & Agriculture: $13 Billion
If we eliminated all of these services, that would free up $938 billion, but that’s not realistic; America needs to defend itself. Cutting the defense budget by 75% would eliminate $788.5 billion and be short of our goal by only $53.5 billion, which would only be a surplus of $236.5 billion.
The debt is not an issue for the Left or the Right. We all need to come together and decide what we are willing to sacrifice to keep this nation fiscally healthy. Programs cost money and we don’t have enough to go around. Quantitative easing (printing money to pay debt) will only work as long as the American dollar is the standard world currency. There are already calls from Russia and China to move away from the dollar because quite honestly it is not fair to other nations when the American government can simply print money to pay for whatever it wants.
We are spending well above our means and this, not any foreign power, is the greatest threat to the United States. Progressive America will have to face what will happen to all of the people who have come to rely on government programs, while conservative America will have to face what happens when there is no fiscally conservative party to be a watchdog in government spending. What will it take to turn Americans towards a compromise that can correct this before it is too late?
The growth of the Libertarian Party is the only hope for America now. A truly fiscally responsible party needs to take its place among the government now that the Republicans have turned their backs on any form of fiscal conservation. President George W. Bush had a surplus his first year (2001), even though he cut the surplus inherited from President Clinton in half. Before Bush the last Republican president with a surplus was President Richard Nixon in 1969, when he had a surplus of $15.3 billion. This should debunk any myth of the fiscally conservative Republicans.
The Libertarian Party stands to inherit voters looking for candidates that understand finances and how to control spending. As the Democrats continue their march to the left and as the Republicans retract to the right, a majority of Americans are going to be left in the middle looking for someone to represent them.
It is the opinion of this author that discussions about, and actions to eliminate, the national debt are the best opportunities to shine a spotlight on where the current two-party system is leading America, and to suggest that a party that represents true liberty be given a chance.
Image of dollar attained from www.publicdomainpictures.net
Jeffrey Smith served in the U.S. Army, where he first began to question the policies of the government and the effect of these policies on personal liberty. Upon leaving the service he found Libertarianism ideas appealing, due to his stances on several issues that did not fit the mold of either Republican or Democrat, and the emphasis given to individual liberty. He currently works as a Senior Operations Specialist/Analyst for a Not-For-Profit organization that promotes standards within the healthcare industry. Jeff has a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Excelsior College and is looking for opportunities to bring the Libertarian Platform to everyday people.