Will the National Debt Destroy Us?

If you think the U.S. national debt is bad now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

The national debt hit $13 trillion for the first time in our nation’s history back in May, and it will only continue to increase in the near future. The Associated Press reports that the total national debt will surpass $14 trillion sometime next year for the first time in our country’s history. To put that in perspective, that  is $47,000 of debt for every American.

This daunting number came out over the weekend as President Obama’s special debt commission met to discuss the state of the U.S. economy. President Obama established the National Commission for Fiscal Responsibility and Reform back in February and charged it with the weighty task of improving this country’s debt problems and achieving “fiscal sustainability over the long run.” But rather than offer hope for this country, the members of that group are expressing how disheartened they are by the economy and the prospects of repairing it.

“This debt is like a cancer. It is truly going to destroy the country from within,” said Erskine Bowles, the former White House chief of staff to Bill Clinton and a co-chair of the commission, according to the Associated Press. And at least on this point there is some bi-partisan agreement. The other co-chair of the commission, Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, described the task ahead as “harrowing.”

So what’s all this fuss about? In a nutshell, the commission warns that if we don’t take steps to reduce our spending and cut down the debt, we will reach a point in 10 years where we have to doll out $2 trillion to pay off only the interest on the money we’ve borrowed from countries like China just to keep our economy afloat.

To put all this in perspective, the current debt is about 90% of our Gross Domestic Product, and the International Monetary Fund estimates that it will surpass 100% sometime in 2012, something that has not happened in this country since World War II. Economists have warned that if the debt reaches 150% of our GDP, inflation could spiral out of control.

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