Archived Story

Voters must compromise to help debt problem

Published 11:01pm Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Even if you are a casual observer of the news, you probably know by now that our nation is currently embroiled in a debate over what to do with the national debt. The immediate crisis concerns raising the national debt limit by Aug. 2, but the fundamental issue driving all of the angst is what we should do with the debt itself.

As I’ve observed this debate over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that some politicians, including our president, seem to think the public at large is simply not capable of understanding the complexity of the crisis, even claiming that only professional politicians have the knowledge and skill to understand and subsequently grapple with the problem.

To some extent this is true. No doubt, tackling the national debt issue and truly understanding all of its complexity is something that is beyond most of our capabilities. However, I do believe the fundamental cause of the crisis is quite easy to understand, even for a simple-minded member of the general public such as myself.

Simply put, the crisis we are currently facing has been caused by the national government spending more money than it’s taking in. I know that some politicians find it difficult to believe we plebeians who make up the general populace can grasp such a difficult concept, but I think we can.

In addition, the resolution of this crisis can be summed up just as easily – spend less money than you take in. Again, some politicians doubt we can grasp such an intricate concept, but I believe if we try real hard, we can.

All kidding aside, the debt issue is easy to understand for anyone who manages a household budget. In order to keep yourself out of trouble, you need to make sure your expenses are less than your income. Once this has been accomplished, you can save the difference for college, retirement or that brand new car you’ve always wanted.

The federal government can resolve its debt problem by following this same easy to understand formula. Unfortunately, it seems our political leaders are incapable of doing so.

Why? The problem ultimately resides in the constituents these politicians represent.

When a household faces a financial problem, one of two things has to occur in order to deal with the issue – make more money or cut expenses (or some combination thereof). The federal government has to do the same. The real problem is no one wants to make the hard choices to accomplish this goal.

For example, the government needs to increase taxes in order to make more money. Now, there are those who want this to be done, just as long as the taxes raised affect someone other than themselves. It’s easy to champion this cause, just as long as someone else has to shoulder the burden.

Conversely, there are those who want to see government expenses cut to the bone. Again, it’s easy to champion this cause, just as long as someone else suffers the consequences of reduced or canceled government aid.

I want to make clear that I’m not advocating any particular plan to raise taxes or cut a government program. The point I’m trying to make is that our nation as a whole currently lacks the fortitude to address this crisis. In short, no one wants to make the needed sacrifices to resolve the problem. Ultimately, our political representatives’ inability to address the debt crisis is nothing more than a reflection of our country’s lack of will.

Until the voters determine they are willing to make the individual sacrifices needed to correct the debt problem and vote for leaders who are willing to carry out their wishes, I suspect our nation will continue down the path it’s currently on.

Roger Steele is general manager and advertising director of The Outlook.