A Nation in Debt

How Can We Pay the Bills?

Published: 2011

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It’s become apparent to many Americans that if we do not act decisively on the nation’s debt soon, our economy will be seriously hobbled and we will dump an unsustainable burden on our children and grandchildren.

“What’s decided (or not decided) over the next few years will spell big changes for the way we live our daily lives,” write Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson in Where Does the Money Go? Your Guided Tour to the Federal Budget Crisis. “How the country solves or doesn’t solve this problem will affect our paychecks, our investments, our mortgages, our kids’ prospects in life, what kind of health care we’ll get, our chances of ever getting to retire—even whether we live in a country that’s fair, stable and prosperous.”

This 12-page issue guide presents an overview of the problem and three options for deliberation.

Option One: Agree to Make Sacrifices Now
We need to compromise on our differences and act now to reduce the national debt. If this generation doesn't make needed sacrifices, we're simply passing the burden to the next generation. It's time to face this urgent problem. We need to raise taxes and cut spending; neither will get the job done alone.

Option Two: Strengthen Checks and Balances
We cannot just hope that personal discipline and basic legislative safeguards will control the urge to spend. Citizens willingly accept more benefits than government can afford and leaders are too willing to help us dig this hole. Our top priority should be to make systemic changes to increase fiscal responsibility.

Option Three: Invest in Growth First
We need to encourage economic growth and invest in research, development, infrastructure, and science education. Growing the economy will boost tax revenues, make the debt more manageable, and will be better for the country in the long run. Drastic cost-cutting measures would likely harm the economy as it tries to recover.


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