The Real National Security Threat: America’s Debt
Excerpt (Note: The date of this article is May 2012):
Drones, kill lists, computer viruses and administration leaks are all the rage in the current political debate. They indeed merit serious scrutiny at a time when the rules of war, and technologies available for war, are changing fast.
That said, these issues are not the foreign policy centerpiece of the 2012 presidential race. Economic renewal and fiscal reform have become the preeminent issues, not only for domestic and economic policy but for foreign policy as well.
As the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael G. Mullen, was fond of saying, national debt has become perhaps our top national security threat.
And neither major presidential candidate is doing enough about it. This issue needs to be framed as crucial not just for our future prosperity but for international stability as well. The United States has been running trillion-dollar deficits, resulting in a huge explosion in the country’s indebtedness.
Publicly held debt now equals 70% of gross domestic product, a threshold many economists consider significant and highly worrisome. Making matters worse, half of our current deficit financing is being provided by foreigners. We are getting by with low interest rates and tolerable levels of domestic investment only because they find U.S. debt attractive, which may not last.
According to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, President Obama’s long-term budget plan would allow publicly held debt as a fraction of GDP to rise further, up to 75%, within a decade. Mitt Romney’s proposal, featuring tax cuts and defense spending increases and as-yet-unspecified (and thus less than fully credible) entitlement reform, appears worse. It would probably drive publicly held debt to 95% of GDP over the same period.
Put differently, though both are serious and pragmatic men, neither major party’s presidential candidate is adequately stepping up to the plate, with Romney’s plan the more troubling of the two.
Why is this situation so serious? First, we are headed for a level of debt that within a decade could require us to spend the first trillion dollars of every year’s federal budget servicing that debt. Much less money will be left for other things. That is a prescription for a vicious cycle of underfinancing for our infrastructure, national education efforts, science research and all the other functions of government that are crucial to long-term economic growth. Robust defense spending will be unsustainable too. Once we get in this rut, getting out will be very hard.National security experts sound alarm on long-term debt
A bipartisan group of prominent national security figures on Tuesday [May 2016] will call on U.S. leaders to reduce the country's long-term debt, which they consider the greatest threat to the nation's security. "As individuals who have served the nation in both international and domestic leadership roles, we continue to believe that our long-term debt is the single greatest threat to our national security," the group said in a statement, first obtained by The Hill.
The group warns that federal debt is projected to climb to 131 percent of the nation's GDP over the next 25 years. "This debt burden would slow economic growth, reduce income levels, and harm our national security posture,” the statement says. “It would inevitably constrain funding for a strong military and effective diplomacy, and draw resources away from the investments that are essential for our economic strength and leading role among nations.”
The group, Coalition for Fiscal and National Security, is chaired by retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and includes former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger, former Defense Secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, and former National Security Advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft.
“The health of the country, the prosperity we care about, and the security we care about are just inextricably linked ... and we keep looking away hoping it will get better, and it gets worse,” said Mullen in an interview with The Hill ahead of the statement's release. “It's about the debt levels, and the inability to pay our own bills, and if we don’t get our fiscal house in order, it’s going to dramatically affect our security of our country,” he said.The story behind Obama and the national debt, in 7 charts
Since President Obama took office, the national debt has increased by $7.4 trillion. On January 20, 2009, it stood at $10.6 trillion; on Monday, it was at $18 trillion. That bit of data leapt to the front page of The Drudge Report on Tuesday, linking to an assessment from CNS News.com. The increase, the site's Terence Jeffrey writes, "is $65,443 per household, $70,985 per full-time worker and $84,266 per full-time private-sector worker." Grim.
Comments: Top image = www.usdebtclock.org / 2nd image The Peterson Foundation is the main group raising awareness of this peril