By Lindsey Stokes
The Simmons Economics Liaison and participants in the Up to Us Campus Competition showed students from numerous disciplines just how dangerous U.S. national debt has become.
The event, which occurred on Thursday in the Linda K. Paresky Center, gave students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to paricipate in a bipartisan conversation about national debt. The event also supported the Up to Simmons initiative’s effort in the Up to Us Campaign, a national competition to educate students on the country’s long-term national debt.
Debt is the accumulation of budget deficits and comes in several forms, explained the event’s lecturer, Associate Professor of Economics Niloufer Sohrabji. Debt is issued through treasury bills, bonds, notes and inflation protected securities.
Total debt is debt held by the public and intergovernmental holdings, which includes debt held by government trust funds. Public debt includes debt held by the Federal Reserve, as well as foreign and domestic investors.
According to the United States Treasury, the total national debt was $18 trillion, as of Feb. 1, 2015, almost $13 trillion of that is held by the public.
National debt has doubled from $9 trillion in 2007 to over $18 trillion in 2015-an alarming growth considering the ever-present fear of default and the slow growth of inflation, according to Sohrabji.
“We don’t know what is going to go on in the economy in the future,” said Sohrabji. “We cannot wait for something to happen.”
According to Sohrabji a decrease in tax rates for the top 1 percent of earners in the 1980s and increasing fiscal expenditures from 1965 to 2014 have created the debt situation we now see.
With this information in mind, students were handed packets outlining the expense reports of certain government agencies, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Packets were assigned according to table. The students were told they had thirty minutes to cut each budget by 20 percent.
After a visibly painful and audibly frustrating thirty minutes, students were asked to share the cuts they made and the reasoning behind them. Students were then asked what they thought of the simulation that just took place.
“This process is far too removed…it’s easy to just slash things,” one student remarked.
“Do you have any idea of the real world consequences for the cuts you just made?” asked Lizzy Howes, an Up to Us team member.
“We had a really hard time cutting health services,” said one student. “People are already not getting the health care they need.”
“When you just look at numbers,” said another student, “you can’t see what else is going on.”
The college’s team placed 7 in the country with 408 students taking the Up to Us pledge.