Constantly escalating numbers

Curt Nettinga of the Plainsman
Posted 8/12/23

In this Through Rose Colored Glasses, the writer examines the ever-increasing national debt

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Constantly escalating numbers


There was a story that floated through the ionosphere about 10 days ago. No, not the one about the former president facing indictments on Jan. 6 charges.

This was much more ominous.

I say this, because regardless of your leanings, the charges against the former president — an unprecedented happening in any dimension — will be monumentally difficult to prove for the Justice Department.

And even if (the largest two-letter word in the world) the former president is found guilty of the charges, it may not happen for years and will likely involve a fine, or probation or community service or a combination.

None of which really affects you or I, in our day-to-day lives.

But having a major credit reporting agency downgrade the United States’ AAA rating? Yeah, that one is likely to hit all of us at some point.

When I checked yesterday morning, at, the total debt facing the U.S. was just shy of $32.7 trillion. It’s a very depressing website.

Also, according to the clock, in the time it took you to read that last paragraph, it likely went up another $150,000.

The idea of reducing a huge debt is popular - heck every person who runs for national office makes it a plank in their candidate platform. “We have to reduce the debt.”

Yet it continues to grow. Because in reality, there are only two ways to reverse course; to turn back the clock if you will. And neither are popular.

If a person or business wishes to improve the bottom line the choices are (A) increase revenue, or (B) decrease expenses. I guess you could use logically use a blend of the two as well, but that is only slightly more palatable.

The first option is pretty simple. The only method for the government to obtain revenue is through taxes and fees, so if (A) is the choice, that means an increase in taxes and fees, which is never mentioned in any campaign. Another pathway of exploration could be collecting money already owed by taxpayers, but Congress consistently dismantles any plans to beef up collections, boost taxes on the 1%ers, or plug holes in the Encyclopedia Britannia-sized tax code.

So (A) is a tough sell, leaving us (B). Easy peasy right, just cut some expenses?

Great….what are you willing to give up? What governmental expenditures should be pared down?

“Government programs don’t affect me…”

Well, yeah they kinda do.

Case in point - if you enjoy a soda, a beer, a shot of whiskey, a cupcake or a bowl of Frosted Flakes, you are affected. All these use sugar. And the U.S. government subsidizes domestic sugar producers, of which there are estimated to be 4,500, to the tune of $4 billion per year. That subsidy maintains a minimum cost for sugar in the nation. This allows U.S. producers to remain competitive (and profitable) in the face of less costly sugar imports, which are adjusted upward via tariffs. It doesn’t amount to much, $10 to $20 annually for each person, presumably depending upon the size of your sweet tooth.

But it’s the tip of an iceberg.

Multiply that by the numerous other commodities, industries and more, which are (subsidized, propped-up, bailed out) by the government in ways that would likely surprise all of us if we were faced with the higher prices, should that help go away.

So (B) may not happen either…

When Dennis Daugaard was inaugurated Governor of South Dakota, he inherited a business with an horrendous balance sheet from his predecessor. It wasn’t popular at the time, but Daugaard’s across-the-board decrease in expenses for the first year or so got the state back in the black.

Could a program like that, which included a combination of an all-encompassing reduction of expenses and an increase in revenue via a blend of the ideas above pull us back from the brink.

I dunno.

But wouldn’t it be preferable than doing nothing and watching the red numbers continue to increase?