Boyd Matheson: $20 trillion in debt? Crucial conversation time for Congress

J. Scott Applewhite, AP

The Capitol is seen in Washington, Monday, July 31, 2017. Most Senate Democrats and independents said Aug. 1, that upcoming legislation to rewrite the tax code should make sure the middle class doesn’t pay more. They won’t support any upcoming GOP effort to overhaul the U.S. tax code that delivers tax cuts to “the top 1 percent” or adds to the government’s $20 trillion debt.

With both houses of Congress and the president out of Washington for a few weeks, perhaps we can have a crucial conversation about some of the greatest long-term threats our country faces — our national debt, deficit spending and the perpetual raising of the debt ceiling.

When Congress returns, one of the first items of business will be the need to raise the debt ceiling. Even as we approach $20 trillion in debt, most of the conversation in September will be focused on politics, not finances. Simply raising the debt ceiling without a national debate on our financial situation is reckless and irresponsible.

Way back in 2010, Adm. Michael Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared, “The most significant threat to our national security is our debt.” Since that time, members of both political parties have ignored his warning and added trillions of dollars to our national debt. Both parties have spent money we do not have, on things we cannot afford, necessitating the continued increase of the debt limit. While we rightly complain about conflict in Congress, it is important to remember that you cannot get $20 trillion in debt through conflict. You can only get that deep in debt through collusion.

America has always paid its bills and always will. Raising, or not raising, the debt limit doesn’t change what we owe — just as reducing the spending limit on your credit card doesn’t change the fact that you must pay back what you spent, plus interest. If we are going to be serious about this serious threat to our national security — like a family buried in credit card debt — we should start by cutting up the credit cards, then have a conversation about prioritizing spending and payments.

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