Editorial: Titanic Debt

Publication: Chicago Tribune


12/28/2009 - Decades or centuries from now, scholars will examine U.S. government documents from our time and notice something strange: In four consecutive years around the close of the 20th century, the federal budget was recorded as having a surplus. That hadn't happened since 1969, it hasn't happened since, and the way things are going, it may never happen again.

Recent years have seen the collapse of all federal fiscal discipline. At the end of the 2001 fiscal year, the national debt stood at $5.7 trillion. Today, it's over $12 trillion. With the population at roughly 300 million, your share is, oh, about $40,000. And you ain't seen nothin' yet. In the next decade, according to the Obama administration's own estimates, Washington will pile up another $9 trillion in deficits.

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That sort of fortitude will be especially precious in the coming years, as more and more members of the baby boom generation start collecting Social Security benefits and running up Medicare bills. The Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform recently projected that in the next three decades, given current trends, federal spending will rise to 36 percent of gross domestic product, up from 25 percent today, while revenue will remain below 20 percent of GDP.

Read the full editorial Titanic debt at the Chicago Tribune Web site.

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