A Trib exclusive: What the president won't say tonight
Throughout its history, the federal government has properly used debt to help overcome threats to the nation and to build necessary and longstanding infrastructure. Much of the American Revolution was financed with borrowed money, as were World War II and the Cold War against the now defunct Soviet Union.
The interstate highway system, coastal ports, and the locks and dams that make our inland waterways navigable are examples of valuable debt financed infrastructure. Failure to incur debt to finance these worthy, constitutionally allowed activities would have made the establishment of our prosperous nation more difficult, or maybe even brought our history to a premature end.
But for the past two generations, and particularly during the last 12 years, Washington has begun to pile up a massive and unsustainable level of debt. For the most part, that red ink spending wasn't used to avert national crisis or to rebuild an aging infrastructure. The deficit spending that built that debt was used primarily to pay for current operations of ever-expanding government in Washington and to fund ongoing government programs.
Washington's permanent establishment has sold a toxic bill of goods to the American people, who haven't read the fine print on the back of the contract.
One major consequence of this huge accumulation of debt in Washington has been the harm it is causing to the American economy right now. Out-of-control deficit spending and debt are undermining the private sector, business expansion, and the creation of new jobs.
Another ominous consequence of Washington's political greed and fiscal insanity is the future direct cost of borrowing all that money. The current debt stands at $16.4 trillion dollars, and Washington has plans to add another $10 trillion to that amount over the next 10 years.
But before Washington can pay a soldier to protect this nation; before Washington can send out a Social Security check or pay a Medicare bill; before Washington can spend a dollar to build an inch of federal highway, or inspect our beef, or fund basic R&D to help discover a new life-saving drug - it must first make certain it can pay the interest on its debt to the people, entities and nations that have lent us money. That's just a fact.
This year, the American taxpayer will pony up $224 billion just to pay that interest on our growing debt. What does that mean to you? That's over $1,850 per American household - this year alone.
And here is where it starts to get increasingly scary. The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that between 2014 to 2018, Americans will pay $1.77 trillion of their hard earned money, just to pay the interest. The Congressional Budget Office then estimated that the interest we all will pay in the five years after 2018 is $3.64 trillion - about the size of our entire federal budget in 2012 and an estimated cost of $30,000 per current household over that five-year period.
Just to remind you again, that money can't be used for government programs or defense of the nation. It doesn't even pay off or reduce Washington's debt. It merely pays interest to our money lenders.
This is not a partisan issue. Both major parties have helped create that debt. Whether you are a Republican, Democrat or independent, the debt impacts you. Whether you are conservative, moderate or liberal, we are all in the same economic boat and we will sink or float together.
Washington has been unwise, irresponsible and greedy. That much is not even debatable. The real questions are: Do the American people have the wisdom Washington lacks? Will the American people demand that the professional political class in Washington kick its addiction to spending money it does not have and stop endangering the economic security of the very people they purport to represent?
On Tuesday night, President Obama will address many issues in his State of the Union address. I can promise you he will try to sell Americans on increasing taxes again. He will talk about "investing in America,", which is Washington political window dressing for increased Washington spending and future debt.
President Obama will outline more things Washington can do for you. In fact, he'll declare that these are things Washington should do for you.
What he won't address - at least honestly address - is the fine print of his contract. He won't address the massive suffering that will result if this nation does not get its financial house in order. He won't say that his plans do not include reduced spending and smaller government in Washington. He won't lay out the problem of debt or how Washington can begin mitigating and then reducing the true cost of that debt and put this nation back on a path of enduring prosperity.
Ron Johnson is a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Play of nose tackles could have impact on Steelers’ stretch run
- WPIAL’s Top 10 football champions of all time
- Rollover crash kills 1 in Plum
- 6 shot at Clairton speakeasy; police seek suspects
- Starkey: Pens move on with, without Dupuis
- School bus accident in Pleasant Hills sends 3 to the hospital
- Pennsylvania unemployment rate drops to six-year low
- Pirates cut ties with Davis, clearing path for Alvarez to play first base
- Philadelphia hospital evaluating patient for Ebola
- No one hurt during Butler Township convenience store robbery
- Slain FBI agent Dixon’s legacy lives on in Pittsburgh Field Office, 10K race fundraiser