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Our Opinion: What's $9 trillion among friends?

Friday, March 24, 2006

What's $9 trillion among friends?

With little fanfare last week, Congress approved raising the national debt limit to $9 trillion dollars. That trillion with a "t", a number with 12 zeros behind it.

The vote was necessary or the government would default on its obligations for the first time in history. This is the fourth time the debt limit has been raised since Pres. Bush took office.

A trillion is a hard number to wrap your mind around and see as an example in the real world. Here's a fact that may bring the concept into focus for you, in very personal terms. Should the people that own our debt call in their markers, every man, woman and child in the USA would need to come up with $30,000. We're sure that each of you has that much lying around, right?

We're being facetious, of course but it truly does crystallize the issue of the national debt, doesn't it? Many say that we really don't owe this money to anyone but ourselves, but increasingly foreigners are purchasing our bonds and the day may come when they will want their money.

So, how did we get here? Weren't we running surpluses and paying down the national debt?

It is more than likely too simplistic of explanation, but between 9/11, two protracted wars, hurricanes and the retirement of the baby boomers, something had to give.

The budget being worked out between the House and Senate shows a deficit over $350 billion for this year and next year. So, there will be more votes to increase the debt ceiling, as early as next year.

The Senate last week passed a budget that abandons Pres. Bush's tax cuts, removes the curbs in Medicare spending and does away with the cap on appropriated spending.

If our country was a family in this personal financial mess, credit counselors would be advising bankruptcy. As a nation, we need to find ways to rely more on ourselves and less on the government, before it truly is too late.