Our Debt: A Fire Out of Control

This is a short essay I wrote while a freshman at college in 1996. Things have gotten worse since then.

Our national debt began like a necessary, comfortable fire but has grown into a blazing inferno that is devouring our resources. Some have said that debt is the price of freedom or a “necessary evil” because that money was needed to kindle the financing of our fledgling nation and our war for independence.
According to Robert Burn’s article, “Born in Hock” in The Kansas City Star on March 1, 1993, our debt began with the Revolutionary War (1775-1783) and by 1789 was at $77 million. That was 38 times larger than our governments yearly revenue! Because of government concern about the debt, they were able to reduce the debt to a mere $38,000 by 1893, even after the costly Civil War.
Since 1893 our nation has increasingly lost consciousness about our financial status. Our debt has increased with each war and even reached the $1 trillion mark in 1981. Looking back we can see that our nation went through two World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam, but the shocking fact is that since 1981 our debt has more than quadrupled and now stands at the enormous amount of $5.2 trillion. The Linn County News of August 28, 1996 quotes our debt at $5,213,488,943,748.22, a nearly incomprehensible number. On a scale where five inches equals $1 billion, $5.2 trillion is more than 2,085 feet away. That is longer than six football fields end to end or $19,629.55 for every man, woman and child in America (based on a population of 263.5 million people)!

Politicians and citizens alike have given up the fight against this fire that is burning up our future. The 1980’s were a prosperous time that should have reduced our debt, but it only increased. What then created such a dramatic increase in our spending? The government needs to open their books and their eyes and stop spending money on every congressman’s whim. Our problem is that everyone has his pet project that he wants to spend money on, whether foreign aid, new office furniture, voter-pleasing projects, or enormous benefits for himself. Every year, our government spends billions of dollars on unnecessary projects and products. They need to rethink these and stop all unnecessary expenditures.
They must realize that they are spending money that we do not have. What will our children do when we give them the responsibility of paying off government debt which we irresponsibly created? Unless we start now, what hope have they of stamping this inferno out? Our congressmen need to be on the lookout for these expenditures which are like dry tinder just waiting to burst into flame. Then they could call attention to the waste and have it stopped.
As citizens, we have the right to vote and should vote for those who will work toward decreasing the debt and balancing the budget. A balanced budget would require the government to spend no more than it has and to stop printing money that is backed by nothing. As you go to the polling booths this November, remember to know your candidates and make sure that they are “firefighters,” ready and willing to put a stop to our national debt.

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