Gallup recently asked a sampling of Americans, “How serious of a threat to the future of the United States do you consider the following…” The results are clear: Americans judge the national debt on par with terrorism as the top threat facing the nation. Further, independents – a crucial constituency during an election year – believe the debt to be the single most threatening issue facing the country, even topping terrorism.
A quick analysis of the numbers reveals why the public is alarmed. Today debt held by the public stands at approximately $8.6 trillion, up from around $7.5 trillion less than a year ago. Over the past 30 years, debt held by the public has averaged about 39.4 percent of gross domestic product, and last year stood at 53 percent, the highest since 1955. Unfortunately, instead of taking swift actions to address the worsening problem, Congress and the White House have chosen to double down on the unrestrained spending policies of the past. Obama’s budget (the only budget available because Congressional Democrats refuse to draft one this year) sees debt held by the public hitting 90 percent of GDP by 2020.
As the world is currently seeing in Greece and across Europe, there are consequences to excessive debt levels. The American people understand the danger; the question is when our leaders will.