National debt threatens our future

Our $18 trillion debt makes a myth of the United States offering fair chances for everyone

BRATTLEBORO — Under the presidency of Ronald Reagan, the United States turned within four years from the biggest creditor nation in the world in 1981 to the world's largest debtor in 1985. Supported by numerous foreign assignments of the U.S. armed forces, the public debt increased constantly, reaching $18 trillion in recent years.

This is a very serious issue for the United States, not only because it deepens the dependence on creditor nations like China or Saudi Arabia, which neglect values like freedom and equality, but also it directly affects everyone.

In 2013, the interest payments of the U.S. public debt made up 6 percent of the federal budget, excluding an actual debt reduction. With a steadily growing budget deficit, primarily due to outrageous defense spending, that figure will form an even-larger part of the annual budget plan.

* * *

Presumably, this debt will lead to cuts in secondary areas like education, transportation, and social services as well as scientific endeavors. It symbolizes a threat to the belief of the founding fathers in equality and perhaps makes a myth of the United States offering fair chances for everyone, regardless of status.

By decreasing the governmental funding of social programs, like the free/reduced meal program that offers meals to 20 percent of food-insecure students in Vermont, the living status of numerous hard-working middle- and lower-class residents would drop.

A declining federal funding of universities and colleges throughout the country would further increase the college tuition for individuals, making higher education unaffordable for hundreds of thousands of young, talented Americans - a problem America already faces.

The social injustice created by enlarging the gap between rich and poor would weaken the unity of the United States as much as a decrease in the funding of America's world-leading role in science and innovation - the key to economic success and human progress itself.

“Inequality has become worse,” Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich states. “The danger to the economy and democracy has become worse.”

The public debt will become one of the major challenges for United States politics in the near future. Facing it will have to lead to changes of American policies and how the country leads in world policy. Priorities have to be set, and compromises have to be made.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” It is the responsibility of every U.S. citizen to prevent that in order to maintain the prosperity and values for which America stands.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates