10.25.2013 1

A time for debt vigilance

By Rick Manning

Ten years ago, the national debt was an astounding 6.8 trillion dollars, fifteen years ago, it was 5.5 trillion and twenty years ago, it was 4.4 trillion.  After all the accounting tricks ended, the 2013 fiscal year ended with just over a 17 trillion dollar national debt.

 Debt Chart

Figure 1: National debt growth from 1993 – 2013, in billions

In one twenty year generation, the United States has quadrupled the national debt, while the nation’s Gross Domestic Product has only risen two and a half times to 16.6 trillion dollars.  Almost 8 trillion dollars of that debt, or almost half, has accumulated in the five years since Obama took office after the first quarter of the 2009 fiscal year.

While these numbers are dire, you would never know it based upon Googling “what was the deficit for 2013” where we learn that the deficit has disappeared in 2013, and how Obama has been the great deficit cutter.

Somehow no articles seem to work their way to the top of Google searches that point out that Obama projected that spending would be a full $300 billion higher in 2013 than it actually was due to House Republican refusal to give him what he wanted.

However, it is even more irritating to realize that the federal government has not bothered to fill out the fill in the blank numbers on the press release revealing what the final deficit was for 2013.  Even though the clock has gone around 14 times since these fine statisticians came back to work after their forced, paid two week sabbatical, somehow looking at and reporting what the actual government spending level was at the close of September 30, is just too arduous of a task.

What they couldn’t hide is that immediately upon the increase in the debt ceiling, our nation magically had increased our debt from the limited $16.7 trillion to more than $17 trillion.

It is unclear whether this 300 billion dollar accounting trick to stay below the debt ceiling will be counted against the 2013 or 2014 deficit, but rest assured that money was borrowed from someone, whether the feds choose to report it, or Google makes it easy to find.

In the next month and a half, another congressional Supercommittee will be meeting in an attempt to come to agreement on what levels the government should be funded in the next nine months.

Arguments will be made about whether the sequester spending levels should be maintained, and how the cuts should be distributed.

Tax “loopholes” like the home mortgage deduction will be put on the table to pay for the increased spending tradeoffs that the Supercommittee will likely be considering.

All the while, expect to get a barrage of media misinformation claiming the budget deficit is under control.  Ignored will be the fact that when the Treasury Department gets around to publishing the final 2013 results, it will show that the deficit is the fifth largest in history, only exceeded by 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

You will likely have to research for yourself to discover that federal government spending is projected to be down by more than 100 billion dollars since 2011, largely due to the House Republican majority fighting for cuts.

After the shutdown and all the fighting in D.C., it is likely most of America will tune out the upcoming budget discussions as just more blather from people who can’t get along.

That is exactly what those who would ignore the national debt problem would like.  A bored, disengaged public that just wants all of the politicians to shut up and go away plays into the hands of those who urge “compromise,” a term that actually means grow government just a little less than Obama wants.

For those who are scared to death about the growth of the national debt over the past twenty years, the decisions made between now and the next government funding deadline on January 15, are likely to determine whether the restraint on spending and the debt is restrained or not.  As painful as it may seem, now is a time for even more vigilance for those who care about the fiscal health of our nation.

Rick Manning (@rmanning957) is the vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government.

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