The national debt at the time of this writing is about $22,168,000,000,000.00. More than twenty-two trillion dollars. That works out to about $67,400 per U.S. citizen (USDebtClock.org). We’re going to have to pay that off eventually…and we can’t just keep saying that somebody else — our children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren — will do it for us. The very least that we can do is to get that number moving down instead of up each year.
If we put aside the size of the numbers and the complexity of the budgets, a nation’s finances really aren’t that different than an individual’s. There is money coming in, and money going out. It’s always better to have the money coming in be greater than the money going out.
In our personal financial world, being ‘in the black’ means you can build up your savings or your investments so you have something to fall back on when times get tough. It may also allow you to make large capital purchases like a car or a home, so long as you are careful not to incur more debt than you can handle. Now, if you’re a regular middle-class guy like me, your budget might not balance every single year. Sometimes you have an unexpected medical expense, or a family emergency that requires travel, or whatever else. That’s okay. That’s what the “rainy-day fund” is for.
But you know as well as I do that you can’t keep spending more than you take in year after year after year. Sooner or later, it will catch up to you. You’ll end up in the position where you’re just barely staying afloat even with your good job and your decent income…and then what happens if you lose the job? Maybe you’ll get lucky and that won’t happen. Maybe you’ll skate by just one step ahead of the repossessors. But is it really worth the risk?
This is the position we are now in as a nation. We are spending a lot more than we are taking in, and it keeps getting worse instead of better. So far, it hasn’t killed us…although it came closer than you might think in 2008 and 2009. And we are skating by on our relatively robust economy and our relatively stable fiscal policies. But what happens when something goes wrong? What happens in a large economic downturn, or a massive national emergency or war? What if the creditors decide that our debt load is too high to keep offering us easy money?
I don’t want to wait and see. I want to get us into a financial position that is strong enough to weather any storm that comes our way.
The Republican and Democratic parties both claim (sometimes) to support fiscally responsible budget policies. Indeed, the last time we had a balanced budget and a federal surplus was under a Democratic president and a Republican Congress. It’s a good talking point, and a rare example of some bipartisan agreement. But in the years since, we’ve had almost every possible arrangement of the two parties at the high levels of our government. There have been times when the Republicans had both houses of Congress and the presidency, and times when the Democrats did. There have been times when power has been split in various different ways between those parties. And yet, nobody has even tried to get the budget balanced.
If elected president, I will demand that both Republicans and Democrats put their legislation where their mouth is and offer a balanced budget or, at the very least, a budget that moves in the right direction and comes with a path toward balancing the budget in less than four years.