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The $9 Trillion Debt - Breaking the Habit of Deficit Spending

As with all of the NIF issues guides, three or more approaches are offered for discussion, each of which represents a different point of view.

Problem statement: The bad habit of deficit spending is more apparent than ever, and pressures on the federal budget will soon get worse. The challenge is to assess what changes we are willing to accept and to come to a considered judgment about the best way out of a difficult situation.

The Gross National Debt

Approach 1:  They Can’t Say No: Curtail Endless Spending. The chief source of the nation’s budgetary woes is endless spending by elected officials. The federal government is too big and too costly. Hard choices need to be made about what is essential for government to do, what is optional, and what this nation cannot afford.

Approach 2: Unfunded Liabilities: Trim Social Security and Medicare. The nation’s promises to senior citizens represent huge and only partially funded liabilities. Unless substantial changes are made in Social Security and Medicare—two of the most costly government programs - the budget gap will get far larger.

Approach 3. The Revenue Solution: Raise Taxes. For years, elected officials have sustained the illusion that taxes could be lowered while public programs and services are expanded. It is time to be honest with ourselves about the cost of what we expect from the federal government and agree about the need to raise additional federal revenue.

Resources for the Forum:

Forum Agenda (Microsoft Word document)

Issue Book - The $9 Trillion Debt: Breaking the Habit of Deficit Spending -

Non-partisan sources of information:

I.O.U.S.A. - The Movie: PBS has produced an excellent DVD described on Amazon as "America is on the brink of a financial meltdown. I.O.U.S.A. boldly examines the rapidly growing national debt and its consequences for the United States. Burdened with an ever-expanding government and military, increased international competition, overextended entitlement programs, and debts to foreign countries that are becoming impossible to honor, America must mend its spendthrift ways or face an economic disaster of epic proportions." A 30 minute version of the DVD. A MUST SEE. The full over one hour long version is available from for $17.49 or in book form for $13.57

The Citizen's Guide to the State of the Union's Finances is available from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation website, and is another excellent source of information. The full amount of the $56.4 Trillion of U.S. federal liabilities and unfunded promises are discussed here. The problem is bigger than "The National Debt clock" shows, as bad as that is.

Another source of the U.S. National Debt Clock which also has numerous links to current and archived articles regarding fiscal responsibility.

Two organizations' websites you should also visit:

  • The Concord Coalition is a nonpartisan, grass roots movement to eliminate the deficit and bring entitlements down to a level that's fair to all generations.
  • The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is a bipartisan, non-profit organization committed to educating the public about issues that have significant fiscal policy impact. The Committee is made up of some of the most important budget experts in the country including many of the past Directors of the Budget Committees, the Congressional Budget Office, the Office of Management and Budget and the Federal Reserve Board. At their site, you can download the Twelve Principles for Fiscal Responsibility


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