Most people call it the national debt. I call it the national disgrace.
Washington has spent all of the money it has extracted from its citizens to say nothing of the governments estimated tax revenue for the next five to six years.
What have we to show for it? Interest payments we can only manage by manipulating financial markets and a financial millstone around our necks to the tune of over $50,000 for every American.
At one time, our debt built up in times of war after which prudence took over and budget surpluses reduced the debt.
The Civil War years saw our debt explode. Afterward, the federal government had 36 surpluses in the next 47 years and reduced the debt by 55 percent.
Something similar happened after WWI when federal government ran 11 straight years of surpluses and reduced the debt by 36 percent.
Politicians do not much like to talk about the debt. I dont blame them as the debt speaks loudly to their mismanagement the governments affairs.
I sense that many politicians have trouble balancing their own checkbooks. My member of Congress, Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-2nd), recently claimed that she could not do without her pay during the government shutdown, implying that she lives from paycheck to paycheck.
Politicians, and especially the executive branch, surround themselves with a cabal of financial wizards who rotate between Wall Street, the Treasury and Federal Reserve.
The spending keeps accelerating, Wall Street reaps profits and fiscal and spending restraints become dirty words.
When a politician speaks of reducing the rate of growth of the deficit as a percentage of the GDP, that is code for someone who plans on spending every last tax dollar and max out the national credit card.
We have a law that restrains the ability of the federal government to borrow by setting an upper limit on the amount of its debt.
Whenever our national debt nears the limit, it is a cue for politicians of both parties to start strutting like Little Lord Fauntleroy, all filled of their self importance while they try to negotiate some small political advantage in return for the inevitable vote to allow for ever more borrowing.
We are told that our reputation as a nation hangs in the balance of the weighty decisions to be made and that we risk of default.
Never mind that tax revenues are more than adequate to pay the interest on the debt and that debt that matures can be replaced without going over the limit.
The Daily Treasury report of May 17 reported that our national debt was $16.6 trillion and that number has not budged since even though treasury is still selling bonds.
What the president and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew call extraordinary measures is also known as cooking the books. If a business had stopped booking revenue in May while it was still operating, it could expect a visit from that other arm of treasury, the IRS.
Governments do default on their debts. Greece has done so at least six times. Yet, after every episode of default, it is back to pass the ouzo and the party starts anew. One day, it may be our turn. .
Were it not for our reaching the debt limit with great regularity, we would not hear anything at all about how shamelessly the federal government is picking the pockets of our children and grandchildren.
The debt limit has been increased 12 times since 2000, going from $5.95 to $16.7 trillion.
There is still time for our government to wake up and accept that we have a severe problem.
There are few things about which I have a greater level of certainty than that it will be far better for us to recognize that we have spending problem and address it before the people who lend us money address it for us.
I can easily see a day when the Chinese are going to tell us, You really cannot afford that new aircraft carrier.
Nothing can be done about the debt until the deficit is tamed. There is no magic bullet.
We have to cut spending, raise taxes and should commit to doing so in no more than five years.
Once we eliminate deficits, the policy of the federal government should be to make a good faith estimate of tax revenues each year, subtract the interest on the debt, take 10 percent of whatever is left to be applied against the debt and spend the rest.
The concept is completely alien to Washington. It is called: living within your means.
Contributing columnist Marc Landry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.