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No Easy Way Out

Posted by Ryan Petersen on

Ryan Petersen

Ryan Petersen

Even if the deficit "super committee" had somehow managed to reach a last-minute compromise before this week's deadline, the country's fiscal woes are well past the point of any easy or painless fixes…regardless of who does the fixing.

With the nation's total debt now exceeding $15 trillion and annual budget deficits projected to be in excess of $1 trillion for the foreseeable future, it is simply no longer possible to solve this crisis through either spending cuts or tax increases alone.

Many ordinary citizens would like to believe that we can solve our budget problems in a way that won't impact them personally – by reducing fraud and waste, or through raising taxes on the wealthy, or by cutting the salaries of government officials, or even by eliminating entire government agencies and departments – but the numbers just don't add up.

Consider that non-defense discretionary spending (i.e. the entire federal government other than the Department of Defense, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, other entitlement programs, and interest on the debt) is less than $700 billion annually, while the deficit is now more than $1 trillion per year.

We could eliminate 14 of 15 cabinet-level departments (and all of the agencies housed within them), keeping only our armed forces, entitlement programs, and enough money to make interest payments on the debt, and we would still have an annual budget shortfall in the hundreds of billions of dollars!

Any realistic solutions, whether they come from a super committee, Congress as a whole, or some other body, will require tax increases for at least some Americans, spending cuts that will impact most Americans, and inflationary monetary policies that will affect all Americans.

In any combination, this will almost certainly result in a decade or more of unavoidable economic pain for the American people. While it's easy to blame politicians for creating this problem (and, indeed, they share in the blame), we must take responsibility as well.

For decades, the American people have demanded a panoply of government programs and services coupled with low tax rates – and our elected leaders have given precisely what we've asked for – the only problem is that the result is $15 trillion of debt and no easy way out.

Opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Andy Rapp, Q-TV, Delta College, or PBS.


Currently Speaking host Andy Rapp

Veteran journalist Andy Rapp has been hosting Currently Speaking since 1999.

Each week, he's joined live in the studio by journalists, academics, and experts. Along with viewers at home, they tackle the local, national, and global issues that matter most.