Why you should care about the national debt
By Alyssa Conley
Ask an average citizen how much our national debt is, and you will get varied answers.
I’ve gotten answers ranging from $4 million to $3 trillion. The unfortunate reality, however, is that our nation currently holds about $17 trillion in debt. That’s enough money to buy brand new iPhones for everyone in China and India, the two most populous countries on the planet.
So, how exactly did we acquire so much debt?
Each year, Congress passes a budget allocating funds for all government programs, which is then signed by the President.
Separately, as you all know, the federal government collects taxes each year, and this revenue is used to pay for what has been designated by that particular year’s budget.
Simple enough, right?
The problem arises when the allocated budget exceeds the amount of revenue collected by taxes and other forms of income, which is known as a deficit. When taxes yield insufficient funds, the government must borrow money, much like an individual who wants to buy a house or a company investing in a new technology.
These funds come from other countries, such as China, which owns about $1 trillion of our national debt, as well as private citizens. Each year we have a deficit, these borrowed funds turn into long-term debt.
You may be wondering why the government would spend more than it takes in.
When the economy is struggling, the government lowers taxes to give citizens more money in their pockets with the idea that they will spend more. They also invest in job creation, so people have more money to spend.
Both of these actions help to kickstart the economy, but result in large deficits, as the government is both taking in less money and spending more.
The most important part of this technique, however, is the part folks in Washington seem to have forgotten. When the economy flourishes again, the tax level should return to normal and there should be a general cut back in spending. In this way, debts can be repaid.
But why does this affect you, a college student? Did you fill out FAFSA this year? Do you have student loans? Plan on having a job after graduation?
These are all great reasons you should care about national debt. The federal government pays for much more than we realize, and it’s important that it stays accountable for government funds in order to continue providing essential public services.
The most important reason why you should care, though, is because politicians in Washington do not. They continue to “kick the can down the road,” so to speak. They can vote to raise the debt ceiling, and shut down the federal government for political purposes, but they have yet to be serious about actually solving the problem.
This means that it’s going to be up to our generation to solve the problem, and the sooner we start trying, the better.