Taking the National Debt Seriously

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, our friend Lawrence Kadish had a sobering op-ed on the nation’s exploding debt and the dangers posed by the growing cost of servicing that debt:

It is the interest on the national debt that makes our future unstable. The exploding size of that burden suggests that, short of devaluing the dollar and taking a large bite out of the middle class through inflation and taxation, there is no way to ever pay down that bill.
As of Sept. 30, 2009, the national debt was almost $12 trillion and interest on that debt was $383 billion for the year, according to the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Public Debt. The Congressional Budget Office on Oct. 7 estimated the 2009 budget deficit to be almost $1.4 trillion (about 10% of GDP). In August, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimated total government revenues at about $2 trillion. The revenue estimate included $904 billion from individual income taxes. This means the cost of interest on the debt represented more than 40 cents of every dollar that came in from individual income taxes. …
During Jimmy Carter’s years in the White House, Treasury yields reached 15%. The 2009 average interest rate on the debt was only 3.2%. With our mounting national debt and budget deficits, it is reasonable to assume that in the near future interest rates on new and refinanced debt could double or triple.
In stark but simple terms, unless Americans are made aware of this financial crisis and demand accountability, the very fabric of our society will be destroyed. Interest rates and interest costs will soar and government revenues will be devoured by interest on the national debt. Eventually, most of what we spend on Social Security, Medicare, education, national defense and much more may have to come from new borrowing, if such funding can be obtained. Left unchecked, this destructive deficit-debt cycle will leave the White House and Congress with either having to default on the national debt or instruct the Treasury to run the printing presses into a policy of hyperinflation.
It is against this background that Washington is now debating whether to create social programs it can’t afford.

It is hard to overestimate the danger to which the fecklessness of our current leaders in Washington exposes the nation.

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