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How the national debt affects us

By Barbara Whelehan ·
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Posted: 2 pm ET

While consumers take steps to rein in their own debt levels and shore up their savings, the U.S. continues wending its way on the path to profligate spending, as if there's no tomorrow. The media have brought to our attention that the national debt recently passed the $13 trillion threshold. But David Walker, who served as comptroller general and head of the U.S. Government Accountability Office from 1998 to 2008, puts the public tab at $62.3 trillion, counting the unfunded promises of Social Security and Medicare.

If Americans were to step up to the plate in a collective effort to eradicate this debt, guess how much we'd have to cough up?

Let's see, that will be (cha-ching!) $201,000 per person, please! Or $500,000 per household. Got an extra half-million dollars to bail out the USA? Me neither.

Walker is the featured interview in the current issue of the Journal of Financial Planning. His message to financial planners is they have a "disproportionate obligation to be informed and involved with regard to our nation's financial condition and fiscal outlook." He says their duty is to increase awareness among their clients, and help them "understand that the federal government has overpromised and underdelivered."

Consequently, people like you and me must do everything in our power to save, invest our money and preserve our assets so that we can provide for our own future retirement security. That is the essence of his message.

But the author of "Comeback America: Turning the Country Around and Restoring Fiscal Responsibility" makes some other interesting points as well. He calls for the restoration of the statutory budget controls that were in place from 1990 to 2002, which kept spending in line with revenues. "We need, frankly, tougher controls than we had from 1990 to 2002, because our situation is worse and we're closer to approaching a fiscal cliff," he says in the article.

Walker played a starring role in "I.O.U.S.A.," a documentary film about the effects of the U.S. deficit on our country. The sequel, "I.O.U.S.A. Solutions," came out in April. I haven't seen it yet, but based on this interview, I'm guessing that he's calling for major reforms in Social Security, health care and taxes. His book covers "policy, operational and needed political reforms in order to help revitalize our democracy and frankly make it a more representative democracy."

Maybe we need to let our elected officials know that we are doing our part to keep our fiscal houses in order, and that we expect them to do their part to tackle this problematic national debt that affects us all.

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June 17, 2010 at 4:07 pm

We need highly publicised, audited financials from every branch of the government. If the American people actually knew how their money was wasted by the government, spending would decrease and our national debt would stop spiraling upward.

Our national debt goes back decades before Bush and Obama. We must also stop blaming the guy in the White House and start working on solutions as a nation.

John Galt
June 14, 2010 at 10:22 am

What a concept! Where was all this talk of cutting spending during the Stimulus debate? During the financial overhaul debate? During the Healthcare non-debate? During the auto bail out?

Everybody that voted for Obama has the blame on this. All this
spending is only his. And what do we have to show for it? Where are all the jobs and savings?

Sorry, but Bush has been out of office for almost 2 years now. No one to blame but ourselves and this administration.

June 09, 2010 at 12:58 pm

I have a great idea, how about we stop spending! Here is a list of cuts that would balance the budget instantly 1. welfare 2. social security 3. medicare. If you are on welfare get to work you bum! Ok now that your working save your own money for medical and retirement which would be much easier if the taxes for these bloated government programs were not coming out of every paycheck!-THE VOICE OF REASON