Tax Reform

End of the Track: Put the Brakes on Runaway U.S. Spending, Debt

Calhoun: Time to put brakes on spending and debt—before it's too late.

Guest commentary

When President Obama attacked Congressional Republicans Wednesday over the federal budget, it made me wonder if he fully grasps the scope of the threat our nation faces from runaway debt.

Let’s look at the evidence. The U.S. federal debt now clocks in at more than $14 trillion and counting. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently reported that the federal debt will exceed the entire U.S. economy within a decade under current policies. If government spending continues at the current frantic pace and U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) continues to lag, the country could risk a fiscal crisis even sooner.

Standard & Poor’s (S&P), a major ratings service that assesses the quality of corporate and government debt (bonds), affirms the CBO projections. In April, S&P put U.S. government debt on “negative outlook” in a shot across the bow designed to get the attention of Washington leaders.

If U.S. debt were downgraded, it would immediately raise the cost of borrowing—making it even more difficult for the federal government to service its debt.

What does all this mean to the average Arkansan? Everything—the debt has significant implications for Arkansas’s economic future, since the state’s fortunes are tied directly to the larger U.S. and world economy.

The fact is that Washington D.C.’s tentacles reach into every county in Arkansas through programs that are fueled by hard-earned tax money. Moreover, a significant portion of Arkansas’s budget is spent on entitlements mandated by Washington, such as Medicaid spending.

A wake-up call

The CBO report and S&P rating ought to be a wake-up call for Congress: It’s time to rein in federal spending and balance the budget. We can argue about entitlements until the cows come home, but nothing will solve the problem until we reform entitlements and reassess all federal spending.

Attempting to restructure government programs always produces the inevitable charges of class warfare. But when the Titanic sank, it didn’t matter if you were a first or third-class passenger. Entitlement reform is essential to ensure that those most in need will continue to receive vital services. If we want to protect Social Security, it’s time to fix it. Likewise with Medicare and Medicaid. If not, all these programs will be lost.

Only two things will fix the debt problem—reducing federal spending and growing the U.S. economy.

The time for action is now

Partisan bickering and finger pointing, as the president brought to the table in his news conference, won’t do the job. If we don’t fix our budget problems, the bond market will do it for us. It will be painful either way—but far less painful if we do it on our own.

But raising taxes, as Obama and other Democrats hope to do, is not the solution. Lower taxes produce incentives to work, save, and invest—which in turn stimulate economic activity.

Only two things will fix the debt problem—reducing federal spending and growing the U.S. economy.

The United States now faces what may be the greatest threat to its existence since the American Revolution. Ronald Reagan said, “At home, our enemy is no longer Redcoats, but red ink.” In only the last few years, Washington has issued an astonishing amount of debt—more than $3 trillion since Obama’s inauguration alone, with trillions more in the pipeline once Obamacare and other federal spending kick in.

It’s as if the railroad bridge is out up ahead and Democrats want the train to go faster, while some Republicans only want to slow it down (e.g., a meager $60 billion in proposed cuts under GOP budget plans), and no one is willing to pull the emergency cord to stop the train. If we don’t take action, that train will plunge into the ravine, taking both Arkansas and the world economy along with it.

Hard working Americans must help Congress apply the brakes. More than anything else, it takes the will of the people to insist we “pull the emergency cord” and stop the runaway spending train before it’s too late.

Rick Calhoun is a Little Rock investment banker and a board member of the Advance Arkansas Institute.

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7 thoughts on “End of the Track: Put the Brakes on Runaway U.S. Spending, Debt

  • Standard and Poor’s triggered the worst financial crisis in decades when they were forced to downgrade the inflated ratings they slapped on complex mortgage-backed securities,

    In one of the most stark condemnations of the credit rating agencies, a Senate investigations panel said the agencies continued to give top ratings to mortgage-backed securities months after the housing market started to collapse.

    The agencies then unleashed on the financial system a flood of downgrades in July 2007, the panel said.

    “Perhaps more than any other single event, the sudden mass downgrades of (residential mortgage-backed securities) and (collateralized debt obligation) ratings were the immediate trigger for the financial crisis,” the staff for Senators Carl Levin and Tom Coburn wrote in their report

    Do you make decisions based on those idiots?

  • “Lower taxes produce incentives to work, save, and invest—which in turn stimulate economic activity.” HA,HA,HA,HA,HA

    you sound like one of those tax cuts pay for themselves magic number guy!

  • One last thing Your holy Ronnie raised the debt and raised tax’s

  • Mr. Marbles

    I notice in all Ken’s jabs there that he isn’t stepping up to defend Obama’s economic record. Can’t say I blame him.

  • Sentido Conservador

    The liberal goal is to raise taxes to the maximum extent possible, let the government decide who needs what when and in what quantity, and as much as possible limit personal freedom in the name of government largess. In the end, the problem becomes the fact that even if the liberals manage to confiscate all the money in the country, it still would not be enough. What happens when our debt exceeds the ABILITY to raise taxes any more? This is the liberal path, simply raise taxes to give more away. At some point this fails and we have for all intents and purposes reached that point. The tracks are truly missing ahead and we are soon to reach the point where we can’t stop in time, even with the will to finally do it.

  • Sounds to me like you are right on target.

  • Pingback: Credit Report: Q&A With Rick Calhoun on Debt Downgrade | The Arkansas Project

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