Midlothian Messenger

What a Legacy They Leave Us

The federal debt has risen to 18 trillion; If the debt is not dealt with soon, it could greatly effect our generation

How+many+hundred+dollar+bills+are+in+18+trillion%3F+A+lot%2C+thats+how+many.
How many hundred dollar bills are in 18 trillion? A lot, thats how many.

How many hundred dollar bills are in 18 trillion? A lot, thats how many.

Photographed by Gisela Giardino

Photographed by Gisela Giardino

How many hundred dollar bills are in 18 trillion? A lot, thats how many.

Written by Celina Robinson, Photography Editor

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18,010,021,214,000.

Read it again, count the zeros and say it out loud.

18,010,021,214,000-trillion-dollars.

That outrageously large number is our country’s estimated federal debt, and that does not even include state debt, local debt and unfunded liabilities of entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Broken down that large sum leaves each U.S. citizens share of the debt at about 56,317 dollars. This is the largest the debt has ever been in the history of our country.

“We’ve always had debt. In our 230 odd years, we’ve maybe had 30 years where we didn’t have,” Marco-Economics teacher Timothy Reed said.

In fact, our federal debt was set up way back in the 1790s by the first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton was experienced with banking and by creating the debt stabilized the dollar and refunded the debts generated by states in the Revolutionary War by refinancing them. Since then, it has had its ups and downs, but it did not start to grow so rapidly until the twentieth century. Although, it has never gone up to 18 trillion before.

“The government borrows money just like we do, from different sources, but they have to borrow it just like we do,” Reed said. “So the more debt we have the more interest we pay, which means the more you have to pay off in the next generations.”

This recent explosion of the debt has brought heat down on President Obama. When Obama took office in 2009, the debt was roughly 10.6 trillion. That means the debt has risen by about 70%. What most fail to notice though is that this problem that is the federal debt did not start six years ago.

“[Debt] has been accumulating big time since Ronald Reagan was President. So it doesn’t matter what president it is, we have increased it through everybody,” Reed said. “Obama ran up the deficit when he took over, but that was to avoid putting us in a depression. That was basic modern macro-economics, that was what you had to do because nobody else was spending money, so in that case government had to.”

Now the most important bit of information is: why does this matter to us? How does it affect us?

Well, it already is effecting us. As the government keeps spending money it does not have, we the people have to pay it back. This will leave the next generation with greater tax burdens and a weaker economy, which is devastating to a country. Take Greece for example. They could not pay their debt and they had to get “bailed out.” This means there are now a lot of the people in Greece who are unemployed, very unhappy and will never be able to retire.

The simple sounding solution is, cut spending and raise revenue. Though of course, controlling the budget of a country is not so easily done. But this March, we will hit our debt limit, and Congress will once again be faced with this issue and have a chance to set us off our doomed path. Hopefully they will develop a way to get federal spending under control instead of increasing the debt ceiling, which would put us right back in our current situation.

Or as Reed simply puts it:

“Short cut version: debt is manageable now, but we have got to get our spending under control sometime within the next ten years or so, or we could be in a world of hurt.”

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