Federal Debt Policy Position

“There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation.
One is by the sword. The other is by debt.”

– John Adams

National Debt

THIS IS THE PRIMARY NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE THAT KEEPS ME UP AT NIGHT

  • The accumulation of debt is troubling in its own right because it indicates a lack of fiscal discipline. Furthermore, while the use of debt to fund government operations or spark the economy during a pandemic or National emergency is a morally acceptable use of debt, the more troubling problem we face is the increase in our DEBT-TO-GDP RATIO.[1]   As our National debt grows, so do our payments to service the debt.  This means that rather than having a Federal budget which pays for priority areas like social security, infrastructure, defense, or healthcare – we end up spending more just to pay off our debt.  This is analogous to what happens when we run up too much debt on our credit card and we are forced to spend so much of our monthly paycheck paying off our credit card bills that we don’t have enough money left to pay for groceries, our mortgage, or other household expenses without going DEEPER in the hole.[2]
  • The table below indicates that without new legislation, our Federal Trust Funds will begin expiring starting in 2021.[3] One can also see the percent cut which beneficiaries can expect to see if these trust funds are not made solvent.[4] Unfortunately, future generations – who are even LESS likely to have sufficient savings, pensions, or an employer sponsored retirement plan – will be affected even MORE drastically.  Which is why fixing our debt problem is such a priority.
So, if you thought the civil unrest which unfolded in 2020 was painful – it will pale in comparison to the civil unrest we will see across the Nation as these social safety net programs begin to undergo cuts because we cannot get our fiscal house in order. OUR NATIONAL DEBT IS ON AN UNSUSTAINABLE TRAJECTORY and it will have disastrous ripple effects across the rest of our political and socio-economic systems – as well as limit our ability to effectively confront our adversaries (China, Russia, etc.) – making this a serious National Security issue which threatens our competitive standing in the world and the long-term health of our Republic.[6] TO BE CLEAR: Philosophically, I believe we have a SPENDING PROBLEM.  I believe our Country was founded on the principle of liberty – which means we should have limited government and by extension, limited taxes.[7]  However, political philosophy-aside, since our human nature compels each of us to want “something for nothing”; and because previous generations of elected officials – and voters – did not demonstrate sufficient wisdom or courage to make tough, sustainable policy decisions, we are now in debt up to our eyeballs and it threatens our long-term economic health and National security.[8] HEAD’S UP REPUBLICANS!  Despite my philosophical opposition to taxing the PEOPLE’s hard-earned money, achieving a balanced budget and reducing our massive debt burden to a manageable level will likely mean increased taxes on at least SOME group of stakeholders, as well as increased scrutiny on ANY proposed tax cuts until we achieve a balanced budget – because tax cuts usually just end up contributing to our debt problem.[9] HEAD’S UP DEMOCRATS!  Because a realistic balanced budget can only be achieved through a combination of increased taxes AND a reduction in spending, we must also have the hard conversations about how to REFORM and REDUCE our biggest line items in the National budget[10] – through entitlement reform,[11] adjusting defense and national security spending priorities,[12] ensuring that government stimulus or social welfare payments of ANY kind go to the recipients and sectors of our economy where they produce “the biggest bang for the buck”,[13] and making our government’s business processes more efficient.[14]

[1] The Federal government’s fiscal year (FY) runs from the October 1st through September 30thhttp://www.crfb.org/press-releases/cbo-confirms-debt-exceeded-100-gdp-fy-2020 (accessed 11/15/2020).
[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/25/business/economy/us-government-debt-interest.html (accessed 11/15/2020).
[3] http://www.crfb.org/blogs/major-trust-funds-headed-insolvency-within-11-years (accessed 11/15/2020).
[4] Depending on which proposal you read, current retirees would be protected to a limited extent, but would still suffer some type of cut to benefits as the trust funds expire.
[5] http://www.crfb.org/blogs/cbo-projects-major-trust-fund-exhaustions-horizon (accessed 12/28/2020).
[6] Former Chairman of the Joint Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, has been warning us about the National Security implications of the debt for over a decade.  However, for those that think this is a Republican/ conservative issue, please read what the left-leaning Brookings Institute was saying back in 2012: https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-real-national-security-threat-americas-debt/ (accessed 2/7/2020).  You can Google for more results, and in all fairness, you will also find some people who believe this to be less dire.
[7] Our Founders expected us to practice enlightened “self-governance” as individuals.  That is to say, we would be a Nation of citizens which would demonstrate the classic virtues of temperance, prudence, courage, and justice in our own lives – WITHOUT an external agent or authority compelling us to do so.  That is one of the reasons John Adams states: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and Religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  However, to be clear, one can see from his writings and additional quotes that he is not advocating for a theocracy or the primacy of any religion.
[8] Before blaming politicians for this mess, we must take a good hard look at ourselves in the mirror – because “we get the politicians we deserve.”
[9] See https://www.crfb.org/papers/tax-cuts-dont-pay-themselves (accessed 11/24/2020). (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/three-martini-lunch-stimulus-bill-tax-break-restaurant-aid/, accessed 12/31/20) and am in favor of ensuring that income from investments – which favor the wealthy – are taxed at the same rate as income we receive from work (https://americansfortaxfairness.org/tax-fairness-briefing-booklet/fact-sheet-taxing-wealthy-americans/, accessed 12/31/20).
[10] The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) infographic found at this link is a useful reference to help see our National spending priorities: https://www.cbo.gov/publication/56324 (as of 12/28/2020).
[11] As a matter of disclosure, I make a small monthly donation to support the work being done by the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB).  I am also an advocate of the Social Security reform plan -and many other recommendations – developed by Maya Macguineas and her team at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRDB): http://www.crfb.org/papers/promoting-economic-growth-through-social-security-reform (accessed 12/28/2020).  Other sources of information on entitlement reform include an article from the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation,  https://www.heritage.org/blueprint-balance/policy-agenda/social-security-and-health-care-entitlement-reform (accessed 11/24/2020); an article from the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:  https://www.crfb.org/blogs/alter-why-entitlement-reforms-are-essential (accessed 11/24/2020); and an in-depth analysis and set of recommendations for entitlement reform are outlined in the book, Putting Our House in Order: A Guide to Social Security and Health Care Reform, by John B. Shoven and George P. Schultz, 2008.
[12] https://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/497947-americas-debt-threatens-our-national-security (Accessed 11/15/2020.  The emphasis in this article was on the importance of reigning in discretionary spending on defense and overseas commitments.)
[13] The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) routinely conducts analyses to determine which Federal spending priorities will have the greatest “multiplier effect” (aka “bang for the buck”) on the economy.  This blog is one example of that logic and contains an EXCELLENT graph that shows which stimulus efforts generated the greatest “bang for the buck”: http://www.crfb.org/blogs/canceling-student-loan-debt-poor-economic-stimulus (accessed 1/1/2021).  Therefore, what I am advocating is that if the government MUST spend our money on stimulus or social welfare programs, the most sustainable approach is to do so in sectors of the economy where that spending will produce the greatest multiplier effect to benefit the ENTIRE economy and Nation as a whole.
[14] Use of the term “business processes” includes anything related to the “people, processes, and technology” used during the conduct of government operations (e.g., Revising human resource policies to make it easier to recruit and retain high performing employees while simultaneously making it easier to get rid of low performers; Utilizing technology and business process improvements to streamline organizations; etc.).     https://thehill.com/opinion/technology/526095-house-must-take-the-first-step-to-modernize-how-congress-works (accessed 11/23/2020) and  https://www.govexec.com/management/2014/05/5-things-leaders-can-do-right-now-fix-government-inefficiency/83593/ (accessed 11/24/2020).

HOW ARE WE GOING TO START THE WORK TO SOLVE OUR NATIONAL DEBT CRISIS – WHICH WILL INVOLVE HEALTHY AND VIGOROUS DEBATE OVER EXTREMELY SENSITIVE ISSUES – WHEN WE CAN’T EVEN AGREE ON THINGS LIKE SAYING “MERRY CHRISTMAS” OR WEARING MASKS DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC?

The question I often hear when it comes to tackling our debt problem is: “Half of our country can barely speak to the other half of the country right now, how are we going to make the hard decisions which need to be made during these times of extreme political polarization?”

That is an EXCELLENT question.  Unfortunately, there is no “silver bullet” to solve all these problems.  Instead, the answer to these types of tough problems ALWAYS BEGIN with:

  • Finding ways to “love our neighbors,”[15]
  • Speaking the truth in love (and thinking critically about what we see and hear online, as well as on the radio, and on TV),[16] and
  • Ensuring that children are being raised in stable family environments.[17]

I freely admit that this is an unorthodox set of recommendations for a political candidate to make, but these are uncertain times filled with a lot of fear and anxiety – so simply picking a “tribe” (or political party) and then yelling at everyone who doesn’t agree with us on difficult issues will never help us begin the process of PRESERVING this Nation for our posterity.

Instead, I believe an INDEPENDENT voice of reason is needed in Congress to help formulate tough, but fair solutions – because NONE OF US are going to like the medicine that we are going to need to take to solve our debt crisis.  Regardless, no matter how painful it might be in the short run, WE MUST STOP THE BLEEDING so we can SAVE critical entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, pay for our critical infrastructure, and pay for our National Security priorities in a globally competitive and dangerous world.  Therefore, if elected I am willing to shut the government down to:

  • Achieve a balanced budget during my first year in office[18].
  • Prevent further increases in the debt limit without enacting sustainable reforms to the debt limit.[19]

These steps are needed to provide FUTURE generations with the same opportunities that we had – which is at the heart of SUSTAINABLE POLICY-MAKING.

Stopping the fiscal hemorrhaging and pulling ourselves out of the incredible fiscal hole we have dug for ourselves is going to be one of the most challenging things we have ever done as a Nation, but WE THE PEOPLE can change our personal and policy decisions which have contributed to this problem and OUR EXISTENCE AS A NATION DEPENDS ON GETTING THIS RIGHT.[20]


[15] It is important to note that “loving our neighbor” does not mean that we need to agree with everything “our neighbors” do or believe.  The entire purpose of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’s FixUS project (and others like it) is to help facilitate dialogue to help bridge partisan divides: https://www.crfb.org/project/fix-us
Religious groups are also taking on this challenge to demonstrate love towards our neighbors.  For examples, see: https://www.justserve.org/ and https://stlukemesa.com/hello/community (both sites accessed on 2/7/2021). For a Biblical example of how one should treat one’s neighbor – particularly those who are “different” than us – please see the story of the “Good Samaritan” in the New Testament’s Gospel of Luke 10:25-37.
[16] In addition to SPEAKING the truth in love, it is also important to be more discerning about our own “sources of truth” when we rely upon corporate media (Fox News, CNN, MSNBC) and social media as our sources of information.  We also must recognize our own sources of bias – because we all have them, including me.
[17] While extended family members and the local community (schoolteachers, coaches, religious leaders, etc.) are vital to a well-rounded support system for our children, the nuclear family is the GREATEST social welfare program ever “created”.  Therefore, we have a moral obligation to ensure that we are only bringing children into this world once we can care for their physical and emotional needs – because no amount of government spending can undo the damage caused when we violate this natural system of self-governance.
[18] This assumes that we are no longer in the midst of a global pandemic or a similar one-off, catastrophic event.  In fact, the entire reason we NEED a balanced budget under normal circumstances is so our fiscal and monetary policy responses can be more effective under these types of EMERGENCY conditions.
[19] http://www.crfb.org/papers/better-budget-process-initiative-improving-debt-limit (accessed 12/23/2020)
[20] Both political parties are guilty of contributing to our debt problem and failing to come clean with the American voter when it comes to the trade-offs associated with policy decisions.

“Future generations will judge us not by what we say, but what we do.” – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

I ENCOURAGE EVERY STUDENT AND EVERY PROSPECTIVE VOTER IN CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 5 TO CHECK OUT THE “DEBT FIXER” TOOL ON THE COMMITTEE FOR RESPONSIBLE FEDERAL BUDGET (CRFB) WEBSITE.

I have created a detailed set of policy recommendations to help us achieve a balanced budget and bring our debt back to a manageable level. [21]

It will help you gain an appreciation for the degree of difficulty of the task. If you DO find a different formula or have other suggestions which helps us achieve our overall debt reduction goals. Please click/tap here to let us know!

There are also many other interactive tools on the CRFB website to help improve our understanding of the Federal Debt and policy decisions which impact all of us: https://www.crfb.org/interactive-tools


[21] These recommendations are from the end of January 2021 – prior to the Biden administration’s and 117th Congress’ stimulus bill.  While a certain portion of that stimulus may have been necessary, it only added to the challenge of reigning in our debt.

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