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Pascoe

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Grant Pascoe
Malcolm Campbell
English 1102
26 March 2014

The National Debt: Will We Overcome It?

Our national debt in the United States is an ever-growing issue that never seems
to slow down. Its immense total, currently at 17.56 trillion dollars and counting, will be
by the end of this day at 17.8 trillion dollars. What so many people marvel is what makes
it so high? And who is to be held responsible? Is it military spending? Obama-care
spending? It is a difficult question to answer but one that can be found through extensive
research and questioning. Our countrys national debt affects every single one of us, our
families, our friends, and our grandchildrens grandchildren. It is a serious problem that
must be resolved. How are we supposed to explain to our children that they will have to
pay an average of $54,346, according to NBC News, over the course of their lifetime just
to help pay for our governments issues regarding the debt? These questions lead me to
my main inquiry: Will our country ever fully pay off our debt?
Through my initial research on this topic, I found some statistics that truly opened
my eyes. NBC News found that, Social spending in 1960 accounted for 23% of the debt,
now social spending as found in 2010 has accounted for 61% of the national debt. That
is almost a 300% increase in social spending done by our government. One would
Grant Pascoe 4/28/14 11:24 AM
Comment [1]: I inseiteu a uefinition of
social spenuing anu then my own
inteipietation following this sentence.
Pascoe

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assume that 23% in 1960 was already a large number and the government would be pro
active in trying to keep it at that number or even decrease it.
The public opinion on who is to be held responsible for our debt is an issue that is
ever growing as the debt rises. NBC News and the Wall Street Journal did a 2011 survey
to see what Americans thought about the national debt. They found that, 80% of
Americans are concerned a great deal about the debt18% were willing to raise taxes
to pay off the debt, 35% were willing to cut government spending, but only 1% was
willing to do both; raise taxes and cut government spending. I was very intrigued by this
survey in that some were content with spending a bit more on taxes and a few more were
satisfied with cutting governmental spending, but almost none were okay with doing both
as it would most likely affect them financially a great deal.
Adding on to NBC News and the Wall Street Journals 2011 survey, I looked
further into what spending is more useful and purposeful than others. Business Insiders
Walter Hickey listed 25 examples of wasteful government spending. These included:
The Department of Education sending $42.4 million to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods
College, despite the fact that the school is ineligible to receive any federal funding. A
$750 million Embassy the U.S. built in Baghdad (Hickey 10). James Rickards, however,
provided the often hidden benefits of government spending. Rickards, a hedge fund
manager in New York City and author of Currency Wars: The Making of the Next
Global Crisis, explained how, Educational and energy-based spending is very
important and effective (Rickards 4) in his article from US News. In respect to these two
credible sources, they are simply two sources with two ideas or opinions. One person
cannot have the exact right answer to what is beneficial and what is inefficient and that is
Grant Pascoe 4/28/14 11:30 AM
Comment [2]: In the euiteu veision, I
staiteu a new paiagiaph heie with }ames
Rickaius.. Because he biings a new iuea to
the uebate anu that calleu foi a new
paiagiaph
Pascoe

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why I investigated into presidents views and how some, but not many, have actually
overseen decreases in the national debt and how they did it.
Decreasing the debt while serving as president is a very difficult yet impressive
thing to achieve. Two presidents since 1977 have decreased the national debt while in
office: Jimmy Carter by 3.3% from 1977-1981 and Bill Clinton by 9.7% from 1993-2001.
Bill Clintons main focus while in office was to reduce the national debt which he was
able to achieve through cuts in governmental jobs and partially lowering taxes. What
makes it so difficult, I marvel, is why do presidents so often have a difficult time
reducing the debt? Nevertheless, after finding out how rare it is for a president to
successfully lower the debt while in office, I decided to ask people personally on their
reasons for the ever-so-often failures of attempted salvation.
After finding how successful the poll done by NBC News and the Wall Street
Journal was, I went ahead and did a survey to my family members back home. I called
six people, a small sample size but one nonetheless. I called my father, my mother, my
uncle and his wife, a family friend on Capitol Hill, and lastly my grandmother. My
purpose in asking whom I did was to see what their thoughts were on the debt from when
they were younger to now at their current age. The replies I received were extremely
helpful. I asked my mother and father individually their thoughts on why the debt is so
high. They answered, Taxes and military spending, respectively. My father explained
why he believed it was mostly due to military spending in which he said, My father
spent fourteen months in Vietnam, he told me that to train him, get him to Vietnam,
house him, and feed him cost the U.S. 20 thousand dollars. After that explanation from
my father, I did some light research on what the cost of a soldier is today. CNNs article
Grant Pascoe 4/28/14 11:35 AM
Comment [3]: I uiu not cite this souice in
my seconu uiaft so I maue that change in my
euiteu final uiaft.
Grant Pascoe 4/28/14 11:35 AM
Comment [4]: I elaboiateu moie on this
question in my ieviseu final uiaft.
Pascoe

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Get U.S. Troops out of Afghanistan written by Keith Ellison, a member of Congress
from Minnesotas 5
th
District, explained that, The annual cost to support one U.S.
soldier in Afghanistan is more than one million dollars, according to the Center for
Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (Ellison 9). Now that number is from 2012 but
what really got me thinking was the impact of the cost of soldiers in Vietnam. That 20
thousand dollars to me was an astonishing number, which lead me to do some inquiry to
see if thats where our debt initially began. According to the people at Investopedia the
Vietnam War contributed to, 475 billion dollars of the national debt (Alli 4). At the
time of the start of the war our countries debt was 350 billion dollars, which means the
war more than doubled the previous debt. Now one may wonder where I am going with
all of this background data and information but it all has a point to it. To fix a problem,
you have to get to the root of the source and start from the ground up. The fact that one
war doubled our national debt is a great source of the issue. The, World Trade Center
attacks leading to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars set the debt in 2008 at 10 trillion dollars
says Investopedia. As an outsider to the main causes of our nations debt trying to look in,
these numbers are undeniable and must lead to further questioning.
When researching statistical data for explanations on our national debt, I came
across usgovernmentspending.com. What I found from the tab, spending, was
surprising. Defense spending (military spending) was the fourth highest contributor to our
debt. From first to third was: Pensions, health care, and education. The United States has
spent over three trillion dollars on just those three alone. How can we afford to keep
spending this way? Yes, those three are very important in societal needs but that is a great
deal of money. Defense spending, however, is where the problem falls to me. We have
Grant Pascoe 4/28/14 11:39 AM
Comment [5]: Lack of elaboiation on
what the website is so I maue that auuition
in my ieviseu final.
Pascoe

S
spent over 50 billion dollars on foreign military and economic aid. Now I may be selfish
but that is a lot of money for just helping others. 626.8 billion dollars on military
defense, as said by usgovernmentspending.com. A war is important to be prepared for
but is it worth 627 billion dollars? That is where former Senator Larry Pressler comes in.
He is, Among more than 100 former members of Congress serving on the Fiscal
Leadership Council of the Campaign to Fix the Debt (Harriman 1), according to Peter
Harriman of Argus Leader. Pressler is using his campaign to help raise attention to what
he says is, Unwarranted spending by the U.S. (Harriman 3). He quickly goes on to
explain what I did just recently ago, We cannot sustain this level of military
spendingthe places we give the most money to hate us and want to kill us (Harriman
5). Pressler is simply echoing what I believe is the most serious contributor to our
national debt: Military spending.
Continuing on from my personal poll and the feedback I received was that of who
I reached out to on Capitol Hill, Judy Russell, an assistant to Donna Edwards, a member
of the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland. I asked her what her initial
thoughts on the national debt were and who or what should be held responsible. She
wrote through email to me, On a personal basis and opinion, I believe it is health care
and how expensive it has become. When she said that, I went back to what I found from
USGovernemtSpending.com in that over one trillion dollars of debt is from health care.
While researching and doing personal samples, I found several different reasons
as to who or what is the main contributor to a colossal national debt. I believe it is
military spending as does former Senator Larry Pressler and my father. Judy Russell
accredits it to health care. So what is it then? I have come to a point where it seems it will
Grant Pascoe 4/28/14 11:43 AM
Comment [6]: 0nnecessaiy commentaiy
so I simply iemoveu it.
Pascoe

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always be opinionated and never have a true, definite answer. As to the main question,
will we ever fully pay off our debt? According to the people like Mark Hendrickson,
author of God and Man on Wall Street: The Conscience of Capitalism at Front Page
Mag, that answer is no. The massive federal debt never will be paid. One reason is the
simple economics of debt (Hendrickson 4). Thus looks like we all must buckle up for a
long ride in the future that will never stop going. Hendricksons answer of it never being
paid off got me thinking: Is some debt a good thing? David Reaume from the Anchorage
Daily News feels very strongly that it should not. He says, Without a secure fallback
investment to balance portfolios and something to turn to when economic conditions
deteriorate, the amplitude of swings in the world economy and the national economy
would be greatly magnified (Reaume 6). He has a very good and valid point in his
argument. If we as Americans had a perfectly balanced debt, one economic downfall
would be augmented on an enormous scale. His ideas, in which I very much agree with,
are convincing and extremely plausible. He reassured the reader that although the debt
will never fully be paid off, he was simply making an example of what it would be like in
the event of that happening.
While I am fully aware of how large and magnificent our national debt truly is, I
am not fully convinced that it cant be solved. Cutting military spending, taking troops
out of Afghanistan, slightly increasing taxes, all things that could be done to make a dent
in what seems like an unfathomable number. Now all that is left is a solution, when will
that ever be solved?


Grant Pascoe 4/28/14 11:44 AM
Comment [7]: Followeu this quote in my
ieviseu veision with a moie simple
explanation of this teim.
Grant Pascoe 4/28/14 11:57 AM
Comment [8]: I staiteu a new paiagiaph
aftei this sentence challenging Baviu
Reaume's claim on how uebt is a goou thing.
Pascoe

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Works Cited:

Alli, Remi. "National Debt: Who Pays?" Investopedia. N.p., 23 Apr 2010. Web. 26 Mar
2014.

Ellison, Keith. "Get U.S. Troops out of Afghanistan." CNN. N.p., 1 May 2012. Web. 24
Mar 2014.

Harriman, Peter. "Pressler on National Debt: Cut Military Spending." Argus Leader-A
Gannet Company. N.p., 7 Jul 2013. Web. 26 Mar 2014.

Hendrickson, Mark. "It's Official: Federal Debt Will Never be Paid Off." Front Page
Mag. N.p., 16 May 2013. Web. 22 Mar 2014.

Hickey, Walter. "Government Spending Waste: 25 Wasteful Items." Business Insider.
N.p., 26 Mar 2013. Web. 26 Mar 2014.

Reaume, David. "US National Debt has its Good Side." Anchorage Daily News. N.p., 16
Aug 2009. Web. 25 Mar 2014.

Rickards, James. "The Internet, Obama's Stimulus, and When Government Spending
Works." US News-Opinion. N.p., 6 Aug 2012. Web. 23 Mar 2014.
Grant Pascoe 4/28/14 12:07 PM
Comment [9]: I auueu 2 moie souices to
my ieviseu uiaft as well as centeieu the
woiks citeu title.
Pascoe

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