Debt and Self-Determination

Posted on July 21st, 2011 Admin

( July 20, 2011

There is nothing inherently wrong with debt.  Consumers use it every day, and for the vast majority of us it would be impossible to own a home or buy a car without it. But how much debt you have, relative to who owns it and your ability to pay it back, is an important concern everyday around kitchen tables across Michigan. For a government of, for, and by the people, it should therefore be a concern for both our state and federal governments as well.  But considering that United States debt as a percentage of our gross domestic product is now approaching 100 percent, a number not seen here since the World War II era, the concerns of the American people are obviously not being heard.

The power of the purse is another important consideration when looking at debt, as who controls the purse controls the power.  I have seen this firsthand as a state representative, with Michigan relying on roughly a third of its budget from federal funds and being subjected to a multitude of federal whims and attached strings that help support a Washington D.C. agenda that is often at odds with the true needs of Michigan taxpayers. As a strong advocate of the 10th Amendment and state powers, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Michigan to chart its own course.

Compounding the problem however is that much of the money the federal government is “giving” us is money that it simply doesn’t have.  In its quest to insert itself into areas best left to the states, the amount of spending and debt have reached the point where the federal government is now putting its own sovereignty at stake by borrowing more and more from foreign sources.

A December 2010 Congressional Budget Office report laid out the best measure of true public debt, which has been put at $9.74 trillion dollars (overall gross debt has been pegged at $14.3 trillion).  What we owe to foreign sources represents a staggering 46% of our public debt. China was reported as the top foreign debt owner, at $1.15 trillion dollars.  If who controls the purse controls the power, the federal government needs to wake up to the fact that getting our debt under control is not just a matter of fiscal importance but one of sovereignty and self-determination.

I have sponsored HCR 06 here in Michigan to join with other states in an effort to compel the federal government to adopt a balanced budget amendment. Given the track record of Congress, we will not get one unless we demand it. But without one, the United States will be forced to sell more of its assets to other governments, pay tolls on our roads and infrastructure to foreign powers, and see more power ceded to those outside of our borders. Debt is a powerful tool when properly used, but the pendulum in the United States has swung too far and we are in jeopardy of becoming beholden to those who can hold an increasingly larger purse over our heads.

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