Editorial: Economic problems require immediate attention

Editorial Board

Our nation is going to raise the debt ceiling. To put it in simple terms, our representatives are going to once again get together and decide that it is OK for us to pull out the national credit card and give it a good old swipe.

If you don’t know that this country is in some very serious trouble economically, you haven’t been paying attention. Even if you have been paying attention, you may not realize how deeply rooted this problem is.

Every year we run out of money, and then our representatives vote to extend the debt ceiling even farther into numbers that are borderline fictional. Fictional in the sense they only exist in our minds. You can never count to 13 trillion — or 14 trillion for that matter — and frankly whether or not that amount of money exists in this country is arguable.

You read that right: Where we stand right now is shaky at best. If you paid attention to China’s credit report in November 2010 — on the same day as the Marine Corps birthday — you were clued in that China is aware of several flaws in our economic system.

First off, the report outlined how we use “economic easing.” Economic easing can be more easily understood if it is called, “printing off money.”

The problem with this is quite simple.

Think of the total economic worth of our nation as a pie, and each dollar printed as a little slice of that pie. As you add slices to the pie, the pieces get smaller. The pieces of the pie can’t stay the same, since there is only so much pie to go around. So, as you print out more money, you devalue it.

Secondly, China pointed out our intentions. They put forward that we have no intention of paying them back, and that we will continue down our current economic path.

That brings us to the vote regarding moving the debt ceiling further into Never, Never Land.

Timothy Geithner, secretary of the U.S. treasury, weighed in with a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The language of which is very telling:

“Never in our history has Congress failed to increase the debt limit when necessary. Failure to raise the limit would precipitate a default by the United States. Default would effectively impose a significant and long-lasting tax on all Americans and all American businesses and could lead to the loss of millions of American jobs. Even a very short-term or limited default would have catastrophic economic consequences that would last for decades. Failure to increase the limit would be deeply irresponsible. For these reasons, I am requesting that Congress act to increase the limit early this year, well before the threat of default becomes imminent.”

As you know, in February 2010 Congress passed legislation to increase the debt limit to $14.29 trillion. As of this editorial, the outstanding debt that is subject to the limit stands at $13.95 trillion, leaving approximately $335 billion of “headroom” beneath the current limit. Because of the inherent uncertainty associated with tax receipts and refunds during the spring tax filing season, as well as other variable factors, it is not possible at this point to predict with precision the date by which the debt limit will be reached.

However, the Treasury Department now estimates the debt limit will be reached as early as March 31, and most likely sometime between that date and May 16. This estimate is subject to change depending on the performance of the economy, government receipts and other factors. This means it is necessary for Congress to act by the end of the first quarter of 2011.”

That’s a lot to digest, but it is important you understand the above paragraphs: Geithner is doing his job and telling the majority leader the situation.

We aren’t saying the debt ceiling shouldn’t be raised, as not doing so sounds pretty terrible. At the end of the letter it is outlined what exactly the government wouldn’t be able to pay for anymore, some of which are: military salaries, veterans’ benefits, unemployment, student loans, Medicaid and the housing bubble that would burst once again.

What we are saying is that we need change. We need President Barack Obama to bring our troops home. We can’t afford to have them fighting in the sand now, and we couldn’t afford it when the wars in the southwest Asia were first launched.

It’s time we started thinking about how we are going to balance our nations checkbook because waiting until something very bad happens to figure it out — China, perhaps, pulling the plug on our credit — is going to cause a hardship for our nation that hasn’t been felt since the Great Depression.