January 5th, 2011
11:45 AM ET

Letters to the President: #716 'The coming train crash'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama has expressed concern about the deficit. He’s also committed a lot of money to government programs. And therein, for all of DC, is the perpetual problem.

Dear Mr. President,

So the Treasury Department says the national debt is just shy of $14 trillion. Seems like only yesterday it was a mere $13 trillion, eh? They grow up so fast. That’s the problem with debt; the bigger it gets, the bigger it gets.

I know that the government is a lot more complex than someone’s household budget, and it’s not entirely fair to say it should be managed in the same way. But it is also not entirely unfair to expect some of the same principles to apply. And here is a basic one: When you spend more than you have coming in, you’re setting up a problem. And the corollary: When you delay grappling with the hard decisions, they only get harder.

Our worst budget issues have been decades in the making. And yet both parties have sat on the tracks having a picnic, year after year, as the locomotive horn blows. Democratic and Republican administrations alike have steadfastly refused to take on some of the toughest issues, such as entitlement programs, because they know in the short term that voters will revile them, just as they know that each year of delay intensifies how bad the final crash will be.

You are correct when you say that solving this puzzle is going to take shared sacrifice. But here is the part that scares me about a great many of you political types. Usually when you say something like that, the part we don’t hear is the quietly whispered “except for my supporters.” So what we get from the left and the right are not balanced plans that call for equal sacrifice at all, but far too often try to tip the scales to make one group of scapegoats shoulder more of the burden. “The rich people are to blame. The poor people are to blame. The middle class is greedy. The Republicans did it! The Democrats did it!” We hear that nonsense over and over, and none of that moves us one step closer to solving the problem.

In all likelihood, stopping the runaway train of debt is going to involve the government spending less and taking in more. And no one is going to like it. But then, have you ever met a compulsive spender who, when the credit card finally buckles, likes being told the party is over?

Make no mistake about it. If we do not get this under control, our debt can cripple us. Then it won’t matter which party wins the White House, Congress, or anything else, because we will all be huge losers, and we will spend many years trying to recover our losses.


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Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Christian

    Hello my fellow Americans. Tell me which way would be the best to get rid of this economy crisis?
    I don’t think a tax cut would be a solution for this economy outbreak. I don’t think changing the whole politicians or giving away money to the poorest would be the best way to solve the recession. The problem here is that people don’t know how to manage their money there is a say “poor money in hands of poor people” no matter how much money you give to the people if they don’t know how to spend it America will be the same. But the people don’t understand this they think the politicians are the ones that have to blame. I’ve seen people in the supermarkets buying things that they don’t need. Wasting their money buying margaritas, instead of saving it, invested it in your health care and buying only what you need and what you can. And even if you don't have the money you borrow money from the banks Just to show your neighbors what have you become.Do the sum in a single neighborhood how much money they waste. Ask the people if they really are recycling, if they have put energy safe bulbs at their homes, if they recycle batteries or they throw it away? I think schools should start giving classes in how is the best way to spend their money, how to recycle, how stop the climate change, etc. It’s gonna be a long way for the people to realize that they have more to do in the economy that the riches and the politicians. It’s like in Mexico people awaits for the government to create jobs but they are not willing to create them they want everything easy handle it to them. They don’t invent they don’t create. They wait for the government to create jobs.
    You have everything and yet you are screwing it up. Not everyone but the people that suffer the most are the ones that don’t know what hit them were the politicians or them selves? There is the million dollar question. So tell me America whose the one that have fail? I think everyone have something to blame. So wake up, stop the lazyness and work for a better America. Good Bye.

    January 5, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    Just paying the interest on the deficit has to be staggering. If we all have to sacrifice then before we cut granny's social security or medicare, or our children's education, or infrastructure repair so bridges don't fall in the water, then lets get rid of all the earmarks without exception; and lets cut way back on aide to foreign countries; and no more war – bring the military home, don't buy them any new toys until the deficit is paid way down; trim the money that Congress uses for their trips and the President uses for his vacations; also no more pay raises for Congress or anyone in the White House or any other federal employee. That just might give us a good start.

    January 5, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  3. rick Leyba

    You pinned the tail on the donkey Tom. It's easy when your not in power to criticize the other side, our elected officials do not vote their concious or even their district, they vote on what's going to get them re-elected.
    look whatever side your on you can't go against you party or their will be repercussions. One side want's health care for everyone, the other will protect the rich at any cost. when the mind-set is so divided, it is almost impossible to come to an agreement.
    I think we should get rid of all one-sided commentary shows,(ie;) O'reily, Beck, hannity, Oberman,Maddow. these shows are Americas poison, they put all efforts into destroying the other side. FOX has shown they are the most succesful at this, they have a huge following and are great at deception and half truths, they are masters at leading you to believe our goverment or Obama are to blame for anything bad in your life. THIS IS WHAT THEY GET PAID FOR.
    Anderson Cooper is one of those who is truly the fair and balanced.

    January 5, 2011 at 5:47 pm |