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Public Debt: A Growing Problem

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Tosha Wilson-Davis
April 24, 2019

The economic crisis of 2008 led to anger, fear, anxiety and uncertainty by both United States leaders as well as the general public. It is still a fresh memory that most do not care to revisit. However, there were several problems that led to this crisis which included poor judgment, lousy decision-making, greed, diminished oversight and accountability by the American government, just to name a few. It is no doubt that 2008 was filled with history, including a near repeat of the 1929 depression and the first elected African American President, Barack Obama. The latter, for most Americans, was the most important as there was great anticipation of how President Obama would address and tackle the economic meltdown.

According to Lee, Jr. Johnson, & Joyce, “The electorate holds presidents responsible for the economy as evidenced in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush’s defeat in his bid for re-election.” President Obama indicated change and a brighter forecast as he promised a positive economic turnaround. He proposed numerous projected recommendations for economic repair, especially the sobering unemployment rate. So, why even with the current Presidency and over ten years later are we still talking about America’s debt? 

A CNBC article answers this question with some of the most shocking information disclosing that the, “National debt for the first time passed $22 trillion in February 2019 — a big, scary number that really doesn’t pose much of a danger now but threatens to in the future.” Such a number is unimaginable and really puts our country at risk. It also provides some perspective on just how big our country’s debt is. What was most damning in this article was the fact that both President Obama and our current President have had their equal share in contributing to the largest national debt that the country has seen in centuries.

The article goes on to mention that, “President Barack Obama’s administration racked up nearly as much debt in eight years than in the entire 232-year history of the country before he took office. He entered with $10.6 trillion in total debt and left with the country owing $19.9 trillion. That’s an average tab of $1.16 trillion a year. Under President Donald Trump, the debt also has climbed. The $2.06 trillion increase works out to about $991 billion a year, or slightly less than the pace Obama had set.”

Considering the above, the million-dollar, or should we say, trillion-dollar question is how does the United States get out of such debt? There is not a magic potion, and there will need to be a critical evaluation and examination of ways to repair America’s credit. Forbes asserts that there are possibly five ways to decrease the national debt:

1) Opening borders to willing workers from all over the world would accelerate the creation of businesses that pay taxes desperately needed to reduce the debt.

2) Raising the retirement age to include retirees being eligible for full retirement in their 70s rather than the current age which is 67.

3) Less regulation which leads to less costs.

4) Revamping the tax code.

5) Taking cues from other countries.

Finding a middle ground is crucial as there will be many who are opposed to opening the borders and raising the retirement age. President Trump is adamant about his border wall along with its funding, and this within itself makes the first solution quite difficult and almost non-existent. Considering the second solution mentioned by Forbes, how would those who have worked since their 20s feel about raising the retirement age to 70? It would not sit well with most citizens. Also, requiring less regulation for businesses may compromise consumers’ safety and/or security.

It will be a daunting and colossal task for US leaders; yet, there is still some optimism that our country can make a rebound and shave the current debt. One article at moneycrashers.com states that, “Politicians regularly suggest that the deficit problem can be resolved as the economy improves because revenues through taxes naturally increase as incomes rise through stronger growth. Such thinking encourages postponing actions that are politically unpopular, such as raising taxes or cutting popular programs.”

Now is the time to get serious about debt relief, and we cannot turn a blind eye. Doing so will continuously put America at risk for economic dilapidation. Therefore, it is imperative for political leaders and business leaders to work together to create a successful economy by applying the following three P’s: Planning, Persistency, and Practicing Good Sense.

Tosha Wilson-Davis, MPA, MSCJ
Justice Studies Department Chair/Assistant Professor of Criminal JusticeGeorgia Military College-Online Campus
[email protected]

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