By Jonathan Bydlak, Rare Contributor
In case you missed it, the country passed a discouraging milestone yesterday. For the first time in history, the US national debt rose above $18 trillion.
Yes, $18 trillion. And of course, this number does not even account for unfunded liabilities. Our national debt is now over 100 percent of the country’s entire economy, or Gross Domestic Product.
These numbers are so large they are all but meaningless. After all, we’re talking about a number that’s 346,560,388 times what an average American makes per year. That’s enough money to pay for 598,125,872 students to go to college – at private universities. To use a particularly jarring example, while one million seconds will pass in the next 12 days and one billion seconds will take 32 years, one trillion seconds will pass in 31,688 years.
But while these numbers might be too large to be tangible, their economic impact will be felt in ways that are all too real. The Congressional Budget Office recently warned of dire economic consequences – even a potential fiscal crisis – without substantial spending reform. Major programs, notably Social Security and Medicare, will simply run out of money very soon, while economic growth continues to lag in the meantime.
Of course, this latest milestone is hardly a surprise. From $956 billion on the flawed Farm Bill, or an additional $5 billion soon to be tacked on to the Pentagon’s slush fund, to ever-rising entitlement spending, especially now under the Affordable Care Act, recent history shows politicians in both parties have no real plans to reign in spending.
Yesterday, legislators from the House and Senate finally reached a deal on the 2015 Defense Budget — one that is likely to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on many things only tenuously related to national security, while blowing past bipartisan budget caps. This follows recent news that promised savings in the Farm Bill might have been little more than smoke and mirrors. Let’s not forget the likely $6.2 billion to combat Ebola, or the billions lost in special-interest favors that Congress now wants to extend. Washington’s recent history shows little willingness to change its ways.
So when establishment politicians promise to tackle this massive and looming liability, one that’s now officially over $18 trillion, remember that their records matter more than their words. Americans should demand far more than empty promises. We simply can’t afford not to.