Marching toward $12 trillion debt

Lauren-KWith the national debt larger than ever, the SMNW Nov. trip helped me put my life in perspective

I’m a huge band geek. My gray backpack covered in musical notes gives me away.

Because band is such a key part of my life, I was ecstatic when I heard about the band trip. Spending Thanksgiving with the band in Hollywood? Maybe not the ideal vacation for everyone, but it sounds great to me.

However, a price tag of $3,000 caused many marchers to stop quicker than a shout of, “Detail, atten-HUT!”

I was responsible for raising a third of the money for my expenses. It was hard work. Over the course of the summer, I was able to pay off my part. If only everyone else in the United States were as responsible…

According to Jan Beukelman, legislative assistant to Rep. Dennis Moore, the national debt is about $11.8 trillion. In a Sept. 2 Associated Press article, the exact amount was: $11,792,918,170,836.43. For some perspective, there are about 140 students in the marching band. For $11.8 trillion, 28 million Marching Cougar Pride members could go to Hollywood. It’s almost impossible to comprehend. For me, $3,000 is a lot of money. My brain can’t even comprehend a million dollars. So $11.8 trillion? It’s not going to happen.

Here’s another way of looking at it. The U.S. population is about 300 million. If we divide the deficit evenly among the 300 million people, every citizen would pay about $39,000.That’s 13 trips to Hollywood per person.

Even though few citizens could pay $39,000, most people aren’t even concerned. So what if the country is in debt? Why should we care?

To fully understand the impact of the national debt, you have to understand how it started. Beukelman compared the U.S. government to an average household. The United States has to pay money on services such as “gas, electricity and TV.” The United States makes the money to pay for the services by selling products and bonds, kind of like the parents of the household working as salespeople. Eventually, the United States was no longer selling enough to pay for the services. To compensate, they began selling treasury notes, a complicated concept that boils down to borrowing money from other countries. Like paying off a bank loan, the countries are promised their money back plus some interest. The tricky thing about debt is that once you’re in it, it’s almost impossible to get out.

So what is Congress doing about it? There are many different ideas being  considered and a couple of projects underway. One that seems to be working is the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). Do you remember when the government stepped in to bail out the failing banks last year? The banks are more stable now and have been paying back what the government gave them. Of about $700 billion loaned to banks, $68.3 billion of it has been paid back, as well as $1.8 billion in profit.

An overall spending freeze is also being tossed around. It would call for the government to stop spending any money until the debt is paid off. How will the country provide for the needs and services required by its people when no money can be spent? Sure, that’s the fastest way to eradicate the debt, but with all the other problems in our nation, it’s not feasible.

The only solution is for us to be involved in what’s going on. We will be the ones deciding who’s in charge of our money and where it’s going. We can make a difference. For this column, I called the office of Dennis Moore in Washington, D.C., and asked questions about the future of our country. The lawmakers are there to listen to us, but they can’t help if we don’t make our concerns heard.

Become informed and give your opinions to people who can make changes. Make your voice heard. I raised a third of the money for my band trip by myself. No one’s asking you to contribute $39,000… yet. Be aware to the world and issues around you.