In 2003, with the national debt at just over $6 trillion, we voiced concern that deficit spending was out of control with no solution in sight. And, to make the problem even more troubling, the members of Congress — Republicans and Democrats — refused to accept deficit reduction as a priority.
Well, as we are set to embark on a new decade, the national debt has doubled to $12 trillion. Paying the interest on that debt consumed $200 billion in the past fiscal year.
The deficit — the difference in how much was spent in relation to revenue (mostly tax collection) — was $1.4 trillion or 10 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. That’s the highest percentage of the GDP since World War II.
This out-of-control spending can’t continue.
Unfortunately, as the country fights wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the national economy remains in a deep slump, the United States can’t significantly slash spending without compromising our military and economic security.
Congress is now debating whether to once again raise the debt ceiling so the nation can pay its bills. Frankly, there isn’t much to debate. The debt ceiling has to be increased.
But Congress can — and should — look to the future and take steps to put an end to deficit spending and start reducing the debt.
Many state governments, including Washington, have rules in place that prohibit deficit spending. Those safeguards have served this state well. While California is awash in red ink, Washington state remains relatively healthy.
Yes, there is some pain. Cuts do have to be made or revenue has to be increased. That’s required when spending requests exceed the amount of money that will be coming into the treasury. We are at that point right now.
While it won’t be easy, lawmakers will either make cuts or raise taxes. Simple as that.
Ultimately, we would envision that the U.S. government adopt a similar approach. That can’t be done, however, until the nation is in a position to reduce spending without creating chaos.
Still, small steps can be taken starting now to promote fiscal responsibility.
Congress needs to make choices on what it can — and can’t — fund. The goal has to be reducing the amount of deficit spending year after year and then start paying down the debt.
And, perhaps more importantly, lawmakers — on both sides of the aisle — need to dramatically change the mindset that the U.S. has an endless supply of money to throw at every problem, domestically and internationally.
This country can’t continue to go deeper and deeper in debt.
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