The next president faces an unenviable task: namely, to fix the national fiscal position after eight years of Republican mismanagement. If they don't make fixing this their top priority, then the US could have an incredibly difficult time when they leave office in either four or eight years.
Let's start with an overview of the last six years. These figures are from the Bureau of Public Debt. They are the total amount of debt outstanding as of the end of the government's fiscal years.
09/30/2006 $8,506,973,899,215.23 09/30/2005 $7,932,709,661,723.50 09/30/2004 $7,379,052,696,330.32 09/30/2003 $6,783,231,062,743.62 09/30/2002 $6,228,235,965,597.16 09/30/2001 $5,807,463,412,200.06 09/30/2000 $5,674,178,209,886.86
Currently, the total national debt stands at $9,136,418,062,457.29
The Associated Press recently made this observation:
Like a ticking time bomb, the national debt is an explosion waiting to happen. It's expanding by about $1.4 billion a day -- or nearly $1 million a minute.
What's that mean to you?
It means almost $30,000 in debt for each man, woman, child and infant in the United States.
The most widely used calculation of national debt is the debt/GDP ratio.
Using the debt figures above and the third quarter total GDP figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis we get the following debt/GDP rations.
2001: 57.29% 2002: 58.80% 2003: 61.18% 2004: 62.64% 2005: 63.16% 2006: 64.11% 2007: about 65% (the time frame of the numbers didn't match exactly).
Notice the ratio has consistently increased for the last six years.
Now, we're in the middle of the primary season, so everybody and their brother is making promises. Rudy wants to cut taxes further, Romney wants to make the latest round of tax cuts permanent, and Edwards has announced a spending plan to help the middle class. I'm sure combing through all the speeches and policy pronouncements from all the candidates would reveal they have all without exception made similar promises to people.
Here's the news flash: we can't afford a single new spending plan and we can't afford more tax cuts until we bring the national debt under control. Notice that over the last five years the U.S. has added over $500 billion dollars of net new debt per year each year. In short -- we're issuing debt like it's going out of style. That means the Bush's tax cuts were in fact tax deferments because they'll have to increase in order to pay for the spending for the last six years. It also means that further tax cuts should be off the table. It also means the further spending for new programs are off the table.
Simple put, the U.S. has to go into "let's save the federal government from bankruptcy" mode. If we don't then we're going to have worse trouble then you've ever seen.