The National Debt Is Dooming Us and Nobody Seems to Care



united states currency seal - IMG_7366_web

Image by kevindean via Flickr

America’s debt crisis is the defining issue of our time. With the impending mass-retirement of the Baby Boomers, our debt — already, at sixteen trillion dollars, breathtaking and virtually insurmountable — is set to explode and send us into a tailspin in the decades to come. The federal government has promised tens of trillions of dollars to the next wave of seniors — money that we don’t have and have no real plan to obtain.

There is an implicit assumption behind the international community’s relative confidence in the United States that, when push comes to shove, our leaders really are going to buckle down and implement serious reforms. The current state of affairs tells us that this confidence has been nothing more than wishful thinking. And as our credit downgrade last year demonstrates, people are slowly starting to recognize that.

When Social Security began, there were sixteen workers paying into the system for every one retiree. Today, that ratio has dwindled to nearly two-to-one. People haven’t had nearly as many children, and they live, on average, for almost a decade longer. The population has aged dramatically — the Baby Boomers betrayed my generation by saddling us with their debt, and there’s not even any “us” to pay it all back.

This should be one of the — if not the — most-discussed issues of our time. Instead, entitlement reform languishes underneath the surface; all but a handful of brave politicians pretend not to notice it. It is the quintessential elephant in the room: everyone knows there’s a problem, but the politics of it are so radioactive and so susceptible to demagoguery that few dare to touch it.

There are a host of viable options for reform, most or all of which need to be taken into account in order to get this situation under control: private accounts and vouchers, reductions in benefits, raising the retirement age, means-testing, incentives to delay or even opt-out of benefits, and — perhaps — a hike in the cap for Social Security taxes. Everything should be on the table.

This is an issue that will require presidential leadership. We know that Barack Obama is useless. But unfortunately, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are also completely unserious about entitlement reform. Romney spent the better part of the early fall attacking Rick Perry for his factual statements about the nature of Social Security. He employed the tactics of the far-left in portraying Perry as a heartless fascist who wants to throw grandmothers out on the streets and force them to eat dog food. Gingrich has attacked Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan — which, in fact, doesn’t even go far enough — as “right-wing social engineering,” supported the largest expansion of the entitlement state since Lyndon Johnson, and denies that Social Security is in need of any reform beyond optional personal accounts.

We live in an age where a presidential candidate is more likely to rise to prominence because he slammed a debate moderator than because he showed courage in taking on a difficult issue. The debates have featured virtually no questions about the crisis in Europe. We have heard almost nothing about how President Obama is planning to run up another one trillion dollars in debt. It has gone virtually unnoticed that our debt-to-GDP ratio has finally cracked 100%. We are on the road to Greece, and nobody seems to care.

We have lived for decades by the logic of John Maynard Keynes’ dismissive crack toward capitalists’ warnings about the long-run consequences of quick-fix policies: “In the long run, we’re all dead.” But today is yesterday’s long-run, and my generation is stuck footing the bill for the Baby Boomers’ greed and the ruling class’ betrayal of our future.

If nothing is done to stabilize this impending crisis — and, as of right now, it’s not looking likely — then America as we know it will likely no longer exist in just a few decades. My great fear is that, by the time that we finally decide to stop playing pretend, it will be too late.

-Alex Knepper

  • R. C. Jackman

    It’s interesting to watch Greece sinking slowly into the depths. We’re tethered to Greece through economic ties. Are we going down too? You betcha we are unless we change our ways. This communism vs. capitalism thing is a really big deal.
    http://ncrenegade.com/editorial/red-alert-credit-default-swaps-explained-ann-barnhardt/
    [from FB "Reginald Carl Jackman"]

  • LORETTA.A.RENO

    We are on the path as Greece but no one to save us.The Unites States of America will be gone,lost.

  • J Keohane

    We care but years of not watching the store and indifference has brought us here. I’m guilty but now nothing short of a revolution can bring about rapid chages. We are a peace loving people so the ballot box is the only tool we have for changes in a free republic but that takes time. I pray we are not too late. I pray we are finally awake.

  • http://Retsof@aol.com Retsof@aol.com

    My analysis, quite straight forward: When Obama is gone (by next January) we will go one of two ways. (1.) The new President will show some (but not enough) fiscal restraint and we will continue the decline with a broad based unrest in the country . On the one hand, conservatives will clamor for more cuts, and on the other, entitlement supporters will riot in the streets and burn everything they can in response to the minimal entitlement cuts that do get made. (2). The new President will make much more severe cuts, which are vital to our survival financially speaking, which will accelerate class warfare for a considerable time and great unrest among the masses. This new President will be very unpopular initially as a result of making us (U.S. CItizens) take the “medicine” necessary to save the economy, thereby saving the country and our American way of life. The new President will have to dramatically unleash the private sector by reducing regulations, taxes, and down sizing the bureaucracy in order to create jobs (hope) to quell the masses while simultaneously cutting federal expenditures in a very big way.

    If the new President survives this first term and gets re-elected we will be on the road to success. We will need at least a full generation of conservativism and fiscal restraint to complete the process. If the new President is not re- elected, and the Amercan public wishes to return to the entitlement society, we will be doomed to the ash bin of history as our nation unravels right before our eyes during the very next generation……. (think Greece!)

    God save us all should the latter choice be made.

  • Spyder dalton

    We have a President who chums around with terrorist activists, is not eligible to be President, cowtows to Muslims, destroys the Constituion and appounts Judges that back it up and appoints czars to his cabinet and the head of the Justice Dept is responsible for over 200 deaths in a gun running scandal meant to crush the second amendment and we are supposed to worry about the crushing debt? LOL What a joke.

    • Spyder dalton

      sorry for the typo’s I hate this Ipad

  • Spyder dalton

    We have a President who chums around with terrorist activists, is not eligible to be President, cow-tows to Muslims, destroys the Constitution and appoints Judges that back it up and appoints czars to his cabinet and the head of the Justice Dept is responsible for over 200 deaths in a gun running scandal meant to crush the second amendment and we are supposed to worry about the crushing debt? LOL What a joke.

  • Dave

    “Any country that accepts abortion, is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what it wants.”. How dare you have concern that I live the life I live despite how many lives I will destroy as I seek my own worldly pleasures. We are not burdening our children we will simply default before they become teenagers. Defauly or inflation. Pick your poison because youmwill pay the piper.