Last night on the CBS Late Show with David Letterman, President Obama suggested that “we don’t have to worry about [the debt] short term.”
Excuse me? On September 4, the U.S. national debt hit the $16 trillion mark. We now owe more on the national debt than the entire U.S. economy produced in goods and services in all of 2012. Per U.S. taxpayer, that massive level of debt stands at over $111,000 and continues rising as you read this. The average American is earning about $51,000 in income in 2012.
After the U.S. credit rating was downgraded by Standard and Poor’s last year, you would think the President got the point. Apparently not. One would think Moody’s stern warning last week would have refreshed the President’s memory.
And for those keeping score, the U.S. budget deficit for 2012, measuring the federal government’s spending in excess of revenue, already exceeds $1 trillion—and the fiscal year is not even over yet. Oh, and this also marks the fourth straight year of $1 trillion-plus deficits.
Is the President keeping score?
Letterman: “Now do you remember what that number was [when you walked into office]? Was it $10 trillion? Was it that?”
President: “Ah, I don’t remember what that number was precisely, but.…”
Let’s help the President out with data from the U.S. Department of the Treasury:
- When President Obama took office, the total national debt was nearly $10.6 trillion. Today, it’s over $16 trillion. That’s more than a 50 percent increase in the national debt in less than four years.
- Debt held by the public was $6.3 trillion on Inauguration Day. Today, that number is about $11.3 trillion. That is an 80 percent increase and sets a new record.
Not knowing how big the debt was when he took office and not worrying about a level of debt that exceeds the size of the entire U.S. economy does explain why the President’s very own budget would have increased spending—while also showering us with more debt and taxes.
The President did acknowledge that the debt “is a problem long term and even medium-term” and further suggested that “we’re going to have to take care of this debt and deficit, but we’ve got to do it in a balanced way.” Risking a recession in 2013 and jobs for 1.6 million Americans to push through a tax hike on the rich sounds more like a reckless way.
The key driver of our medium- and long-term debt problem is the spending explosion on entitlements. As Heritage’s Alison Fraser explains:
The goal is to strengthen the safety net, not destroy it. The out-of-control growth of these programs virtually ensures their ultimate destruction, so we should act now.
These choices, while difficult, are not radical: extending the means testing in Medicare today further to fix the program’s finances while also embracing premium support to improve health care delivery and outcomes; extending means testing in Social Security further (after all, do Bill Gates or Warren Buffett really need Social Security?); gradually moving Social Security away from a benefit for everyone to a benefit that, unlike today, guarantees that seniors won’t live in poverty because their benefits are so low.
The President’s own Office of Management and Budget projects that the national debt will rise to over $25 trillion by 2022. Maybe it’s time that the President starts keeping score.