Earlier this year, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the deficit this year would be $642 billion, and the deficit over the next 10 years will come in at $6.3 trillion.
Furthermore, the current United States debt exceeds $16,750,448,000,000 ($16.75 trillion) and is increasing at the rate of $1.759 billion every day. And, the 2013 budget anticipated spending at $3.8 trillion.
Those numbers are incomprehensible, so let’s put them in terms folks can understand. Since the U.S. population is about 313 million and there are around 115 million households:
Your share of the current national debt is over $52,872.
Your household’s share of the debt is about $143,403.
Every year, your share of new borrowing is $2,051 Every year, your household’s share of new borrowing is about $5,582.
Assuming a little population growth, in 10 years your share of the debt will be more than $72,000 and your household’s share will be about $196,000.
Every child in this country owes that much the day he or she is born. Every year, your share of federal spending is $4,435.
Every year, your household’s share of federal spending is about $12,071. Just to balance the budget, the taxes you pay, directly and indirectly, would have to increase by 46 percent.
The Tax Foundation estimates that 47 percent of all households pay no income tax at all. Therefore, each household that does pay taxes must pay for about $22,775 per year in federal spending, which means that taxpaying households actually take on about $10,000 in new debt every year.
Now, whatever you think about federal spending, whether you think it’s too low or too high or just about right, whether you think we’re spending intelligently or stupidly, do you think that your family can take on $10,000 in new debt every year from now until the day you die? Or, instead, pay $10,000 additional every year in taxes?
I don’t think so, either. Which means that it’s time to get serious about spending.
And, of course, that’s where it gets very, very hard. Where would you cut? Defense? Social security? Health care? Welfare and safety net programs? Interest on the debt?
All else, including everything from federal employee’s pay to farm programs to operation of the National Institutes of Health, is only 20 percent, not enough to provide the savings needed. But cut we must.
To be smart about it, first we have to recognize that it’s going to be painful.
Second, we have to prioritize our spending, and the debate on that is going to be just about as painful as the cuts themselves.
Time to tell the Congress and the president that we understand just how difficult it’s going to be, that we know there will be pain to go around, that we don’t envy them the job; but it’s got to be done, and it’s what we hired them to do.
Or we can hire someone else if they’re not up to the task.
Kenneth D. Gough of Elizabethton is president and general manager of Accurate Machine Products Corp. in Johnson City.