Vail Valley Voices: Here kids, enjoy your debt |

Vail Valley Voices: Here kids, enjoy your debt

Reagan tripled it, Clinton pretended to knock it down a tad, and then Bush doubled it.

It was over $5 trillion when Bush took office and almost $11 trillion when he handed it to Obama, but it ignorantly did not include the cost of two wars, which were presumably hidden somewhere deep in Dick Cheney’s bottomless pit of perpetual financial darkness.

It is now almost $13 trillion and projected to reach $16 trillion in three short years.

So no, health care is not going to be the ruin of this county. Neither is Pelosi, Reid, Beck, Limbaugh, liberals, conservatives, independents or any entitlement programs in particular, including Social Security, Medicare or food stamps for illegals. (Although cumulatively caused by all of the above, the point is now moot.)

“It” is debt.

Not your personal mortgage or how much you owe on your credit cards but the total debt of the U.S. government, which, no matter how you try to twist it, is us – you, me and every other American.

Put simply, we owe more than we make. A lot more. As a country, we are under water, financially speaking, and we’re sinking a little more each day, to the tune of $2 billion per.

That’s a lot of H2-uh-oh.

At the end of 2009, our national debt was 85 percent of the gross domestic product, which might look extremely high.

Yet in 1945, after deficit spending to fix the Great Depression and fight World War II, it was 120 percent. So hey, it could be worse.

Our elected leaders lowered it over the next three decades, but only with the assistance of very high taxes (well over 75 percent for the wealthy at times).

The following three decades began with Reagan’s trickle-down theory and slashed taxes for the rich, and our national debt responded accordingly by skyrocketing, leaving the disparity between the wealthy (top 1 percent) and the rest of us larger than any point in modern history.

So what do we do?

We could nationalize all of our assets and tell our debt holders to kiss off (which would include the use of a mirror), but that would

only make us another Venezuela, with Sean Penn the only happy American.

We could receive money from the government at a huge discount and then lend it back plus interest to pretend we were creating wealth, but then we would just be another Federal Reserve, of which one is one too many already.

Or maybe we could just put leaders of every single country with any exported debt (which would leave no one out) in a big room with a giant chalkboard, set up “T” accounts for each (Accounting 101) listing who owes whom how much and methodically cancel each debit and credit until there was just one or two left standing. After we all pitched in to pay off China, the planet could hit the “Debt-Reset” button and start all over again.

Simple, no?

Obviously, I don’t have a clue (hey, big surprise). But I do know that holding our elected leaders (the new ones, forget the old ones) to do what they promise is the first step toward sound fiscal policy.

Sooner or later something has to give, and that something will come from one place and one place only: our pockets and the pockets of our children and our children’s children.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, just ain’t right.

Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes a column for the Daily. He can be reached at Comment on

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