The National Debt

Bill Neinast

Waking up to a dilemma is hard.  That is why this has been a hard day.

What is the theme of today’s thoughts?  Is It Nero fiddled while Rome burned?  Or is it, a house built on sand will not stand?

The easy way out is to let you decide. So that is what I will do.

The problem of the day is what to do about the 20 trillion dollar national debt being dropped on our children and grand children.  No one in Washington seems to be concerned about that debt, and that lack of concern may be more serious than the debt itself.

Before considering the debt itself, however, take a look at the note holders, the individuals and entities to whom the debt is owed.  You and I are the primary note holders.

In round figures, less than one-fourth of that debt is in the hands of foreign interests.  As of December, 2017, China, the number one foreign creditor, owned $1.2 trillion of the U.S. debt and Japan, with $1.1 trillion in claims, came in as number two.

Conversely, our own Social Security Trust Fund is owed more than China and Japan combined.  We owe ourselves $2.801 trillion to replace the dollars paid into that fund by American workers to secure their promised “federal old age assistance.”

The largest share, however, in private hands (banks, pension funds, insurance companies, etc.) in the FORM of treasury bonds and notes.  This totals $14.7 trillion and includes such things as $166 billion in U.S. Savings Bonds.

That debt makes it impossible for the federal government to operate under a balanced budget like the one constitutionally required in Texas.

Is there, then, any way for us to pay our debts and begin operating on budgets with incomes equalling or exceeding expenditures?  

That dream is possible, but making it a reality is very, very difficult.  The difficulty is apparent in expressing the problem in numbers.

The deficit is written or expressed in trillions.  The current $4.15 trillion budget, however, is broken down into billion dollar pieces. That means there are over 4,000 billion dollar pieces in the total.

So cutting a $30 billion dollar budget item, which seems like a huge sum to most people, is like reducing a thousand dollar debt with a few pennies.

That thousand dollar debt will never be reduced, however, if you do not keep throwing pennies at it.

So what pennies are there that can be thrown at the $20 trillion debt?

A starting cache may be the State Department’s share of the budget.  There you will find $42.4 billion currently proposed for foreign aid or assistance.  That is broken divided between Economic and Development ($25.6B) and Security ($16.8B).

Afghanistan is favored with the larger share of both the economic and security with Israel coming in second for security.  The remaining economic and development portion is scattered through Mexico, South America, African, and the Middle East.

Why?  With the possible exception of the security aid for Afghanistan and Israel, how does any of this money collected from hard working Americans benefit the United States?

Seventy-five years ago, when we were the sole surviving economic power of WWII, the Marshal Plan and similar aid packages made sense.  Today, though, we share the world stage with a number of prosperous nations and there is no apparent reason to be Uncle Sugar to anyone else, particularly those wracked with corruption and political strong men.

Another few pennies of savings can be found in our unbelievable support of the United Nation.  

We American taxpayers are currently paying the U.N. just under $3 billion.  That is 28.5783 percent of the organization’s budget. 

Wow!  Think of the burden the remaining 70 percent of the budget must put on the other 191 (that is one hundred and ninety one) members of the organization.

Notwithstanding the financial benefit for New York city’s hosting of the U.N. headquarters, this wide disparity in the financial support of the organization is another reason for us to withdraw entirely.  But that is the subject for another day.

So here’s the perspective.

Eliminating foreign aid and U.N support from the federal budget would not even move the decimal point on the spread sheet.  If that decimal point is ever to be moved, however, so that we can begin rebuilding our reserves and get to balanced budgets, we will have to start with pennies like these.

Those saved pennies, however, cannot be given to the Representatives and Senators to build things like new national parks in their honor back home.  Enforcing such restrictions, though, might be harder than saving the pennies.

So what is it?  Is it Nero fiddled why Rome burned or a house built on sand will not stand.  

You decide.


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