In my last post I discussed several commonly held myths about the national debt, along the line that it is a fairly minor problem that can easily be solved sometime in the future if we decide that it is important enough to do so.
The above chart shows that the debt is already very large by historical standards and that it is projected (by the Congressional Budget Office) to just keep getting worse if we continue on our current path of excessive borrowing to pay our bills.
The national organization, “Fix the Debt” lays out very clearly the reasons why our ever-growing debt level is so harmful:
- It causes lower wages and fewer job opportunities. The debt will “crowd out” productive investments in people, technology and new ventures. The CBO estimates that wages will grow more slowly if debt is on an upward path compared to a downward path. This will amount to an average $7000 wage cut 25 years from now in the year 2040.
- It leaves less room for investment in infrastructure, research and the next generation. A growing debt means higher interest payments. The CBO projects that interest payments could nearly quadruple from $220 billion in 2013 to about $800 billion in 2024. That leaves far less for investments in education, infrastructure, research, etc.
- It increases the likelihood of a fiscal crisis. Failure to get the national debt under control could precipitate a crisis where investors are no longer willing to loan money to the government at affordable rates. This could mean large investment losses, tanking markets, mass unemployment, rapid inflation, etc.
- It means a missed opportunity to grow the economy. Deficit reduction legislation presents an opportunity to enact pro-growth tax reform, improve programs to reward work, re-orient spending to important investments, and capture the economic benefits of putting the debt on a sustainable path.
Let’s hope and pray that our national leaders appreciate the urgent nature of the debt problem and have the political courage to do something serious about it!