$31,322,650,864,578 

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Illustration by Steven Coleman/The Daily Campus

At approximately 1:01 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4, the U.S. National Debt reached $31,322,650,864,578. That’s a lot of money. Having that much debt is a major problem and one that I feel the government should be much more focused on. What this much debt represents is pure fiscal irresponsibility. This indicates that for many, many years, Congress has passed budgets that aren’t balanced and instead spend more money than the government has. Pretty much everyone knows that you shouldn’t spend money you don’t have — except for the federal government. 

Just to give this issue some perspective, the national debt in 2002 was $10.25 trillion.  This means that over the past 20 years the national debt has increased by over $20 trillion, or on average the government has spent $1 trillion more than it should have each year. Right now, the debt is at 124% of the United States’ gross domestic product or GDP. According to the U.S. Treasury, “GDP is the value of the final goods and services produced within a country and is usually measured by year.” This means that if the government got the value of all the final goods and services produced in the United States in a year, it still wouldn’t have enough money to pay off the debt. To put even more perspective on this issue, the federal government collected $4.90 trillion in revenue in 2022. What this indicates is that the government only collects enough each year to pay less than one-sixth of the debt off, and that’s assuming that the entirety of the government revenue went to paying off the debt, something that is likely never going to happen. In sum, we owe a whole lot of money. 

One of the primary reasons that this is bad is because of interest. This fiscal year, $400 billion of government spending will be toward interest payments. That’s a ton of money wasted. It isn’t going toward a vital government program, fixing our roads, improving schools, or anything useful otherwise. The $400 billion dollars is going to pay interest on the massive amount of debt that our government has accumulated. This equals “roughly $3,055 per household” according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. That’s a significant amount of money, and though taxes come from a variety of sources, the statistic nevertheless indicates the financial toll these high-interest payments have. This is clear proof that the government’s lack of fiscal control not only creates debt but creates excessive interest payments and uses money that could’ve gone to more important government programs. 

One would think that given the amount that we pay in interest among many other negative effects, the government would work to make major changes to increase revenue, decrease expenses or both in an effort to have a more balanced budget or even pay off the debt eventually. After thinking that, one would immediately start laughing and then realize that in the 2022 fiscal year we once again have a budget deficit of $1.38 trillion dollars

What I feel would be the best approach to fix this massive issue is to elect politicians truly committed to passing a balanced budget. Having members of Congress working to eliminate unnecessary spending, effectively increase revenue and working to eliminate the deficit would go a long way. More importantly, I would like to see a presidential candidate who is committed to vetoing any budget that isn’t balanced. Changes and convictions such as these would help begin a long process of possibly paying off a massive debt that will one day become our children’s problem — something that is completely unfair to them.  We may not see the impact of having a debt, but the interest payments are there, taking away from other vital uses.  Not to mention that this perspective doesn’t even begin to examine the true economic impact of our national debt. 

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