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Our $15,536,279,221,858.36 Problem

by Dan Horning | GWU

F Posted in: News and Politics, Voices P Posted on: January 20, 2012
Dan Horning Dan Horning


No, that’s not the total combined sale of ping pong balls and Bud Light in the United States last fall. That’s our national debt. That’s 8,397,988,768,572 average trips on the metro in Washington, DC. That’s 310,725,584 years at a college that costs $50,000 per year. That’s 15,536,279,221,858 items off the dollar menu at Burger King.

That’s also the same amount of GDP that the United States is valued at. You guessed right folks; the debt to GDP ratio in the US is officially one to one. For every dollar that the United States is worth, in terms of products made and sold, money saved and invested, there is another dollar that the US owes to either some foreign nation or to itself.

$15,536,279,221,858.36. That number is just unfathomable. What’s even scarier is how that debt affects our generation, those of us ages 20-29, just under 40% of the total population. Since 2006, interest on the national debt has been above $400 billion each year. In 2011, it was greater than $450 billion. That makes it the fifth largest piece of the Federal budget pie.

So, as if that’s not depressing enough, President Obama will campaign for re-election on more debt, more spending, and a diminished future for our generation. He’ll say that more bridges to nowhere need to be built, more money needs to be set aside to bail out crony capitalism; he’ll even campaign on the notion that more of the health care industry needs to be seized by the Federal government.

What’s worse, Barack Obama will campaign on wealth inequality, targeting the 1% at the expense of the 100%. What he fails to understand is how much his reckless spending and endless bailouts create an even bigger inequality gap, and that’s with our generation. As the debt to GDP ratio increases, the national economy slows down. Interest rates go up, increasing the cost of borrowing. That hurts those of us (and our parents) who either have student loans or have just taken out a mortgage on our first home. That hurts businesses, as their cost of borrowing increases, available capital for investment decreases, reducing the hiring of new workers (you know, those of us about to graduate) and reducing investment in new internal infrastructure (you know, those machines and technological gadgets that young engineers are thinking up and trying to sell each and every day).

Obama’s spending spree has gotten us nowhere thus far. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections say that Obamacare will reduce the Federal deficit, but that assumes that certain precise population growth models and national health standards stay on par with what the CBO has projected. When dealing with 1/6 of the national economy, that is one big assumption, one that is very far from certain. The $787 billion stimulus created zero net new jobs. Bailouts of failing banks, failing companies such as Solyndra, and failing nations such as those in the Eurozone (which, while it has not happened yet, is probable given this administration’s track record) results in less money in our pockets and more money in the pockets of those who contort and destroy the capitalist system.

To rob the economic system (and the people who make up that system) that has made our Republic the envy of the world is nothing short of a sin and an embarrassment. And Barack Obama should be ashamed that his economic policies are leading the United States down this path.

I do believe that Barack Obama wants what’s best for America, but his three-year blindness to high unemployment, high debt, and a higher national misery index is hardly hope and change worthy of campaigning on.

The national debt isn’t the fault of the 1%; it isn’t the fault of the 99%. It’s the fault of the 100%. It’s the fault of politicians who spent the hard earned money of the people they represented, the toil and sweat of millions of ordinary people who went out, engaged in commerce, created jobs, and participated in the great experiment called the American economy. It’s also the fault of the 100%, those who have continuously voted for politicians who misspend their hard earned money. It’s the fault of President Bush, who grew the national debt by $5 trillion during his eight years in office. It’s the fault of President Obama, who has grown the national debt by $5 trillion in his first three years in office. It’s the fault of every Congress that has voted for budget deficits and expanded entitlement programs without finding ways to pay for them.

This election, President Obama has the opportunity to change course. He has the opportunity to veto any budget that spends more money that the government has. He has the opportunity to simplify and clean out the antiquated, 15,000 page tax code. He has the opportunity to bring together state governors, doctors, patients and experts and create a laboratory to re-invent health care in the US. He has the opportunity to say no to bailouts and government favoritism.

The $15,536,279,221,858.36 question this year is, will he?

Dan Horning Dan Horning Dan Horning is a Philadelphia native and senior at The George Washington University. An International Affairs major concentrating in international development and international economics, Dan has worked on a number of political campaigns and is a self described public policy nerd.

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