2011-08-05 / Columnists

Left, Right & Middle

Commentary By Glenn DiResto

The nation’s debt ceiling is something we have all been hearing a lot about in the news for the last few months; but until recently many of us knew very little about it. So what exactly is our nation’s debt ceiling? Our nation’s debt ceiling limits the amount of total debt the US Treasury can borrow with congressional approval. Our nation runs like any other business or household in America. It has an annual budget to pay its expenses and when our government spends more money than it takes in, we run a budget deficit creating the need to borrow money to pay for the spending. The borrowed money is our national debt, which currently is just over 14 TRILLION dollars. That’s right people, I said TRILLION. That’s roughly $46,000 per person.

How did we get to this point? Our nation’s public debt issue is nothing new and has been around since our country was founded 235 years ago. In fact our Constitution gives Congress the powers to borrow money on the credit of the United States Government. Some people have been blaming our current President for the national debt crisis. The blame should not lie on the shoulders of President Obama alone, although he and Congress have definitely added to the problem.

Since 1962 our nation’s debt ceiling has been raised 74 times under both Democratic and Republican Presidents and Congresses. Our current debt has been fueled by the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan along with debt financed tax cuts under President Bush and other policies. The decrease in tax revenue due to the continued economic recession and our government’s inability to control spending are making a bad situation worse.

After all the political rhetoric, games and finger pointing it is great to see that with a fragile economy our Congressional leaders did not allow the United States Government to default on its obligations. The House of Representatives voted 269 to 161 and the US Senate voted 74-26 to raise the debt ceiling and ensure our country does not default. I am sure neither the far left nor far right was happy with this deal. Those are probably the leaders who voted against the bill. The far left wanted to do away with tax loopholes that protect some of the richest Americans and the largest corporations, while the far right wanted much larger cuts to federal spending especially to the so-called entitlement programs we know as Social Security and Medicare. Thank God for the moderate Congressional leaders from both parties who realized no one is going to get exactly what he or she wanted and they compromised on getting a deal done.

However, raising the debt ceiling is only a temporary solution. Having so much debt will be a long-lasting problem as the interest on our national debt continues to escalate and is a time bomb waiting to explode. This year alone our interest on our national debt will be close to $500 billion dollars. I am sure many Democrats and Republicans agree our country needs to get its fiscal house in order by reining in out of control spending, rooting out waste and fraud, maintaining a balanced budget, while ensuring that core essential services are provided to those who really need them. However, the debate is going to be, “How do we go about doing this so future generations are not left with the financial burden?”

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