Monthly Archive: October 2011

Costly Shopping Spree

You may have heard that the United States is steep in debt over $14 trillion. Over $5 trillion borrowed from Social Security and Medicare and the rest borrowed from around the world including China. How did we let this happen? How did America fall asleep during this rapid expansion of national debt and the most costly shopping spree in U.S. history?

First, let’s look at Social Security and Medicare withholdings in the 90s under President Clinton. Lots of folks were working during those boom times, creating a huge surplus in Social Security. The surplus was used by Clinton to fund his day-to-day government for many years. Due to a quirk in government accounting (or lack thereof) that allows for this “transfer” of funds from Social Security to Treasury to occur quietly off the books, these borrowed funds did not get counted in the national debt. So although many of us credit Clinton with running a surplus in the 90s, it was the money borrowed from Social Security that funded these so-called surpluses.

The rest of the debt unfortunately comes from wars. The Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam were funded with lots of borrowed money. During peace time, debt is then reduced until the next war hits. This has been the normal cycle for more than 100 years. More wars and less peace mean more borrowing. This makes sense until we have to deal with 9/11, the War on Terror, the creation of Homeland Security, Iraq and Afghanistan and limited involvement in Libya; it is just too much at once. The economic meltdown a few years ago along with all the government-funded bailouts didn’t help either. Not surprising, the national debt skyrocketed continuing through the entire decade from 2000 to present. What’s the takeaway? Again, we can’t have it all. I know this is easier said than done. Try asking your spouse to cut spending and see how many points that gets you.

But we have to start somewhere. Let everyone we voted in last election know we don’t need any tax increases to raise more revenue so the government can spend more money and get further into debt. Let our elected officials know that, except for law enforcement, defense and other essential services, we need less government, fewer government buildings and agencies, less spending and less government – period. Although there are essential government services on the shopping list each year, the shopping sprees of the past are simply unacceptable as we enter a very frugal decade.

In conclusion, perhaps our government needs to shut down during the hot Washington summer months each year to cool off government spending and save the American people a few trillion, give or take a few billion. Perhaps all nonessential folks in Congress, meaning everyone, could work in the summer repairing roads, bridges and the rest of the infrastructure in their home districts. Then, when they come back in September, they will know what real work is all about.

H. Christopher Moss
– Letter to the Editor of the Charleston Mercury
published September 22, 2011