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Thoughts on the National Debt

If you can solve a problem by writing a check, you have an expense.  If writing a check won’t solve the problem . . . well, maybe the problem should be addressed directly instead of by writing checks.

On Friday the 13th, Janet Yellen sent a letter to the Speaker of the House saying that “Public Law 117-73 increased the statutory debt limit to approximately $32.381 trillion . . . I am writing to inform you that beginning on Thursday, January 19, 2023, the outstanding debt of the United States is projected to reach the statutory limit.”

A month ago, I wrote about the 1.7 trillion dollar budget – it came out to $5,151 for each individual living in the USA.  The national debt is about 19 times larger – so we could pay it off if each of us wrote a check for $100,000.  If we had the ability to do so, the national debt would indeed just be an expense.  Since we don’t it’s a problem. 

Secretary Yellen continues, “Once the limit is reached, Treasury will need to start taking certain extraordinary measures to prevent the United States from defaulting on its obligations.

The two extraordinary measures Treasury anticipates implementing this month are (1) redeeming existing, and suspending new investments of the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund (CSRDF) and the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund (Postal Fund) and (2) suspending reinvestment of the Government Securities Investment Fund (Gfund) of the Federal Employees Thrift Savings Plan.”

I’m not an economist.  I’m particularly not a Keynesian economist.  Somehow, it seems to me that, if you can’t write a check to solve today’s problem, increasing the debt limit, in the hope that a couple years down the road you’ll be able to write a larger check, is not a rational solution. There are government services and expenses that I can live without –

“In 2022, the Biden administration and the U.S. Congress have directed nearly $50 billion in assistance to Ukraine, which includes humanitarian, financial, and military support, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a German research institute.” 

https://www.cfr.org/article/how-much-aid-has-us-sent-ukraine-here-are-six-charts

Nothing personal, but I was kind of glad when the Cold War ended – and I’m not convinced that funding Ukraine isn’t just getting it back for some jackasses who profited from it.

I’m looking at the BATF rules on pistol braces – maybe we could just amend the 1934 National Firearms Act to cut out the wording on short barreled rifles and shotguns, give that agency less rules to administer, and save half the budget.  Heck, they might even work on real crimes, with real victims and make a safer country.

If the first “extraordinary measures” are just cutting out retirement obligations, what might we discover if we just looked at cutting out foreign aid until the budget is balanced, and creating a federal employment ceiling to cut every time the debt gets out of control?  If we can’t write a check to turn the problem into an expense, we need a solution.

One of my solutions would slightly change Congress – a small dormitory, with single rooms and a cafeteria for each elected member of Congress.  Drop the pay to the US average wage, provide a coach ticket home and back each week, and see if that wouldn’t change the quality of government. 

If you can’t write a check to cover your expenses, you have a problem.

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