Tom Foreman | BIO
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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