October 25, 2010
By Israel Ortega
For many lawmakers, the hangover is kicking in. After years of going on a spending binge, lawmakers are sobering up (albeit temporarily) to the cries of an anxious electorate pleading that we hit the brakes.
A recently conducted Gallup poll confirmed this. Only terrorism topped the national debt among American’s biggest fears. Perhaps that’s why politicians of virtually every political stripe are at least paying lip service to curbing federal spending as they campaign for this year’s midterm elections.
But come next year, will lawmakers have the stomachs to follow through with their campaign promises of greater fiscal restraint?
Let’s hope so. We are desperately in need of bold leadership to confront the threat posed by a rapidly rising national debt. Besides living up to their promises of exercising greater restraint when dipping into the national purse, policymakers will have to grapple with the vexing demographic changes to our country’s makeup, and their implications to the sacred cows of many government programs including the “Big Three” -- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Collectively, these expensive government programs are determining huge amounts of how our federal government spends our hard-earned tax money.
Too many lawmakers are choosing to stick their heads in the sand rather than answer tough questions about how best to fulfill the government’s pledge for many of these programs while reforming an entitlement system in desperate need of repair.
This is a national problem of course, but for the fastest-growing demographic in the country, this is a particularly timely and relevant topic. With a Hispanic population of around 50 million people (which is only expected to grow in the years to come), Hispanics will be among those who stand to gain or lose the most from whatever policymakers do concerning our national debt. Unless something is done to reduce the national debt, Hispanics will be among the many picking up the tab.
Hispanics, like the rest of America, must ask themselves if policymakers’ neglect is imperiling the American Dream.
For proof, consider that today the debt held by the public stands at approximately $8.6 trillion, up from around $7.5 trillion less than a year ago. Over the past three decades, debt held by the public averaged about 39.4 percent of our economy. But last year, it stood at 53 percent – the highest since 1955. According to the Congressional Budget Office, interest payments on the national debt will triple over the next six years, to approximately $600 billion annually.
To put these numbers in context, that means our interest payments could be more than what Congress spends on education, energy, transportation, housing and environment protection combined!
In this light, it is evident that the grassroots movement being manifested in a growing and influential tea party is right to demand a change from Washington. Beyond the hundreds of billion-dollar entitlement programs on auto-pilot, Congress has been doubling down by spending on a costly health care reform program -- one that is deeply unpopular and will add substantially to our country’s national deficit.
In case we want to take a look at the collision course we’re heading in unless action is taken, we need only look across the pond to Europe, where riots have broken out over fiscal restraint. Spain, Greece and now France are among the countries coping with the harsh reality that money is running out to pay for their countries’ generous welfare programs.
The writing is on the wall. If we want to bequeath a free and prosperous land to our children and grandchildren, we must hold our elected officials accountable to the real perils of our irresponsible surge in government spending and our rapidly rising national debt.
Israel Ortega is the Spanish Media Associate for The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in Fox News Latino
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