Obama must say how he will deal with rising debt

Guess who made this inflammatory declaration: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, that’s who; the very same Kansan who warned his nation against falling prey to the military-industrial complex, which feeds on itself at the expense of the people.
Since his unheeded warnings were issued, guns without number have been made, flotillas of warships launched and the racks upon racks of today’s rockets are fired with destructive frequency from pilotless planes, targeting, in the main, Taliban terrorists who live among impoverished populations which suffer from hunger the year around and from cold every winter.
President Ike’s point half a century ago was that the United States had spent and was continuing to spend horrendous sums on its military — and that the money would be much better spent meeting basic human needs like food, clothing and health care.
Nobody argued against American’s Number One war hero then; perhaps it would be difficult today to coax any member of Congress to say flat-out that Gen. Eisenhower was a namby-pamby peacenik with a warped sense of values.
Indeed, a Gallop Poll taken tomorrow might show that a majority of Americans agree with Ike’s evaluation — and also agree that we should continue to spend whatever it takes to supply our men in uniform whatever they need to do their jobs. As a people, we have a genius for taking contradictory positions.
But without getting into a discussion about continuing our wars, let us all agree that continuing to run a federal deficit of more than $1 trillion will be ruinous and must stop.
David J. Pack, a statistician who works and lives in Lenexa, has taken a detailed look at the consequences. He focus-ed on the 2007 budget year. He found that the government collected $1.5 trillion in individual and corporate income taxes that year and spent more than $1 trillion on military spending and interest on the national debt. Of the military spending, $572 billion was budgeted; $170 billion more was spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars from off-budget appropriations, bringing the total cost of the military to $742 billion for that year.
All of that money — including interest payments on the debt, a great deal of which was sent overseas to our creditors in Russia, China and other nations which have put their surplus money in U.S. treasury bonds — was borrowed.
The pattern estabished by the George Bush administration continues today. Military spending continues to require billions of borrowed dollars every week. Even more billions are being spent to keep the U.S. economy from sinking into a double-dip recession.
Neither our presidents nor our Congresses should have decided to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without paying for them. Those unwise and cowardly decisions can’t be un-done. But the consequences of them must be dealt with and the sooner the better.
One must hope that President Barack Obama will spend the bulk of his time in his State of the Nation speech focusing on the debt, the deficit and ways to deal with them. It is true enough that he inherited a mess. The national debt more than doubled under Bush. Taxes were cut even as deficits soared. But those things can’t be undone and must be faced.
It will not be enough for him to say that the recession is moderating and that the economy will recover. He must also say very specifically what he will ask Congress to do to move the nation toward a balanced budget so that the national debt can be reduced. Those goals should take priority until it is clear that they can be reached.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.