All that government spending of our tax dollars does tend to mount up. According to TruthinAccounting.org, a nonprofit that keeps track of both our acknowledged current national debt and the burden of future government payment promises, we now have an "official" national debt of more than $17.4 Trillion. And the ticking clock on their website shows that we have promised to pay a total of $75.9 trillion (or maybe it will be $76 trillion by the time you read this) to future Social Security and Medicare recipients, and in interest on our debt, along with military retirement benefits, etc., etc.
In other words, we owe a LOT of money! More than the government can raise in taxes. More than the government can make up by cutting spending. And probably even more than the government can "print" -- at least, before the rest of the world catches on and decides to stop lending us money at affordable interest rates.
The only way out of our debt dilemma is a surge of economic growth. That's not an unrealistic possibility. We saw our budget deficits turn into a surplus in the 1990s as a wave of productivity brought on by technology spurred economic growth. It's possible that, as we lurch toward energy independence, a wave of low-cost energy could push our economy to grow at much faster rates. A growing economy means less government spending on unemployment benefits and more income tax receipts.
In the meantime, Washington is playing a shell game. They are dividing the country -- not between Democrats and Republicans, or liberals and conservatives. Instead, because of the burden of all this promised spending and increasing debt, Washington is dividing us between young and old. They are creating "Generation Warfare." Soon they will have us all fighting each other at the trough of government benefits.
What else can you call it when young people are coerced into buying expensive health insurance in order to subsidize the lower cost policies of their elders?
What else can you call it when young people are enticed to take out student loans at interest rates many times what the government pays to borrow -- and then graduate into an economy that is not providing jobs so they can repay those loans?
What else can you call it when younger workers pay into a Social Security "trust fund" that is scheduled to move onto shaky ground long before they can expect to receive benefits -- all to pay for someone else's parents and grandparents?
And from the seniors' side, isn't it generation warfare for the Fed to keep interest rates low (depriving seniors of the opportunity to earn interest in their retirement years), so that the government's unprecedented borrowing (a burden on the young) can continue?
And isn't it generation warfare to reduce the government's support for Medicare Advantage plans and limit Medicare reimbursements to physicians and hospitals, just when seniors most need the care?
The Government vs Us
Whether you're a young graduating college student, a middle-aged worker hoping to keep a job or a senior worrying about making ends meet, you're a victim of a government that thinks it knows what's best for you. Our government entices you to depend on it, whether for student loans, health care, food stamps or disability insurance.
We have a system in Washington -- both political parties -- that survives by turning us against each other, individuals and generations. Instead of figuring out how to grow the economic pie, they are obsessed with dividing up the existing pie. Young and old are starting to pay the price for our dependency on government solutions.
Abraham Lincoln said: "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."
It's something to think about as we approach Income Tax Day and send in our checks to the government, or calculate how much we paid in withholding. Ironically, Tax Day is as far away from Election Day as you can get on the calendar. They -- the Washington establishment -- are counting on us not to notice, or not to remember, when it comes time to vote them back into office to make decisions that change the course of America for generations to come.
Dependency is no recipe for prosperity. And that's The Savage Truth.
Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and is on the board of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. She appears weekly on WMAQ-Channel 5's 4:30 p.m. newscast, and can be reached at www.terrysavage.com. She is the author of the new book, "The New Savage Number: How Much Money Do You Really Need to Retire?" "Terry answers readers' personal finance questions on her blog at www.TerrySavage.com. To find out more about Terry Savage and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 TERRY SAVAGE PRODUCTIONS
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM