Have you ever noticed when the power goes off at your house and then comes back on, every clock from the VCR to the electric range will flash you a warning? The numerals 12:00 will blink off and on until you reset them or unplug the appliance. Just like your clocks at home, another clock is now flashing and its warning is much more aggravating than a flashing 12:00. The U.S. National Debt Clock is flashing and spinning at the rate of $1.59 billion per day and it looks like it is going to be a while before we get it reset. Concerned? Well, you ought to be.
On July 7, 2003, at 4:50 p.m. the clock was showing a current outstanding public debt of $6,672,706,178,712 and it continues to spin even more each day. And, if you don't think that number affects you, then you need to think again. Whether you like it or not, your share of that amount is $22,896.66 and at the current rate it is going to go even higher.
In September of 2000, the National Debt Clock located in New York's Times Square was unplugged after running continuously since its creation in 1989. After running annual surpluses during the Clinton administration, Douglas Durst, who's father put the clock up to draw attention to the nation's debt, unplugged the clock. He covered it with red, white and blue curtains and said, "We'll have it ready in case things start turning around- which I'm sure they will. The politicians will do what they always have done and start spending more than we can afford."
The clock is ticking once again as Durst predicted it would and its ticking may lead to a return to the 1980s debt. Of course, we have a national debt ceiling, but as we saw recently that ceiling can be raised at anytime. In May, President Bush signed a bill allowing a record $984 billion increase in the amount the federal government can borrow. That legislation marked the second increase in the debt ceiling in just roughly a year. In June 2002, the debt ceiling was increased by $450 billion to $6.4 trillion. With the President's newly signed bill, our federal government can now borrow to a new national debt ceiling of $7.4 trillion.
Treasury Department spokesman Rob Nichols on June 16 told Guardian Unlimited Newspapers that the government could hit the new $7.4 trillion limit on the national debt next year - anytime from April through October. If that is the case, then once again the ceiling will be lifted and the old debt clock on the wall will spin its numbers even faster.
The whole national debt subject is a touchy item when discussed politically. One group blames the president, the other blames the economy and we all understand the cost of fighting a war and terrorism. However, it all comes down to spending more than we have and needing to cut expenses.
There seems to be little concern from our general population on the increasing trend to place our country once again deeper in debt. But, the time is rapidly approaching for all of us to become active in encouraging our elected officials to do something before the clock strikes 12:00. In my opinion, debt ceilings are nothing more than a myth if we think they impose controls on our government's spending. The place to start is to hold the spending line at the congressional budgeting process and to spend only on expenditures that we can afford. I know that sounds a lot like the way we run our households, but if it can work for John Q. Public, why can it not also work for Uncle Sam?
We need to get our economy back on track, unemployment under control and attempt to avoid deflation as much as possible.
The clock is ticking, but maybe we can avoid it tolling for us with a higher national debt on future generations.