In a few short weeks, my youngest daughter will have another birthday, which means I will have another teenager in my house. She is part of a young American generation that has no memory of our nation not at war. She has enjoyed a front-row seat to the birth of the Smart Phone and the death of drinking water from the faucet. Almost every memory she has of television news relates to unemployment rates and a sluggish economy. In her short life, the national debt has also grown from $5.74 trillion to $16.5 trillion. By comparison, from my birth to my 13th birthday, the national debt grew from around $347 billion (1968) to around $997 billion (1981).
At current pace, by the time my daughter leaves for college, our nation will pay well over $500 billion each year just in interest on our debt. That is greater than almost any category of spending in our national budget. Some have argued that our growing debt will one day affect our children, but I believe that day has already arrived.
Americans may not track daily the granular details of our economic reality, but they do understand that it is now tough to find a job that pays well, to fill up their car with gas or to save money for college or retirement. Intuitively, Americans understand that our national debt has something to do with our economic malaise. As our nation prints money or competes on the global market for investment capital to finance our debt, we crowd out private investment trying to find money to expand their company. This slows down our economy even more. Our increased spending on interest payments reduces available money for national security, education, medical research, roads and our social safety net. So we borrow more, and the debt cycle accelerates.