I submitted a letter to the Joplin Globe editor this week. It hasn’t run yet and of course I can’t be sure it will, but it says something simple about the debt crisis that I think is worth repeating, so here it is (below) in blog form.
A Joplin Globe editorial caught my attention Tuesday (8/9/2011), not because it was controversial, or pithy, or new, but because it was none of those things. Titled “Time To Wise Up”, I would summarize it in my own words this way:
It sometimes makes sense for government to borrow money, just as it does for families, but it is just common sense that borrowed money needs to be spent wisely. However, the current economic woes have been caused by the government of the U.S. borrowing too much money and then not spending it wisely.
The editorial ends with, “Our rather simple conclusion is that it is time for our national leaders to ‘wise up’ in the way we use our borrowed money.”
I think this leaves the public with the impression that the $14.2 Trillion national debt and the federal budget deficit, wherein we now borrow 42 cents of every dollar spent, are due “simply” to rash spending by those unspecified “leaders”, and that it can be fixed by stopping such behavior. The truth is that this completely mischaracterizes the problem. The problem is not current discretionary spending but established entitlement spending.
Based on the Wikipedia page for the 2010 federal budget, discretionary spending amounts to only 19% of the total and that 19% includes running the entire bloated government itself, all the departments (except DOD) and all the agencies. The DOD (Department of Defense) is 20% and other “mandatory” commitments are 12%. Together, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security account for a whopping 43% of the budget. (6% is interest on the debt and that’s growing fast.)
The problem is not simply unwise spending by the current “leaders”, it is that past “leaders” have painted us into a corner on entitlements. Until we face that fact, no facile exhortations to “leaders” are going to fix this dilemma. We need entitlement reform, and soon. The Joplin Globe should know better. If the press won’t tell us the hard truth, who will? It is obvious our “leaders” won’t.