The 17 Trillion Dollar Question

trilion dollar

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By Benjamin Park

As of January 23, 2014, the US national debt was seventeen trillion, two hundred seventy-six billion, five hundred eighty-two million, one hundred seventy thousand, three hundred forty-seven dollars and seven cents. The National Debt has continued to increase an average of $2.52 billion per day since September 30, 2012. To put that into perspective, the United States population is approximately 313.9 million, and each of us would need to provide $54,414.23 in order to pay off this debt.

Still don’t get it? If we were to fill up the Big House with hundred dollar bills, that still wouldn’t cover the US debt. If we were to stack crates of hundred dollar bills, we would be able to rebuild the Empire State Building, the Twin Towers and the new Freedom Towers with the money and still have cash left over. If we were to stack one-dollar bills, we could make a direct line a little past Uranus, which is 1.98 billion miles away.

Let’s think about that for a second. If we think about the universe and the entirety of life, we, as humans, are often considered a small speck in the infinite universe. And yet, the impact that we’ve had financially, as a nation, can be compared to the distance from Earth to a planet that we have yet to reach with our advanced technology. This isn’t just another issue; this is, perhaps, the biggest issue.

Then why is it that we seem to be doing nothing?

Is it because it’s larger than life? Is it because it doesn’t affect us?  I can assure you that even though we don’t see the immediate effects of the fiscal policies in the United States, it will affect us eventually. And if we don’t do anything about it, I can assure you that each and every one of you will feel the hit.

As the United States continues to have much controversy surrounding the United States’ fiscal topics, such as social security, health care, education and defense, we have spurned away the idea that the debt, policies and budget of our nation is a fiscal issue.  We’ve turned it into a social issue. It’s no longer about solving the problem for the most fiscally responsible solution, but for politicians, legislators and representatives to argue for their own agendas. We are continuing to spiral into a bipartisan government, where one side advocates less taxation and the other presses on for more spending. It doesn’t take an economics major to know that spending more and taxing less will lead to the government increasing its debt.

As part of the Up To Us campaign, I believe the voices of students have been lost. When asked about the current state of US fiscal policies, many students are unsure of their answers and admit that they feel unqualified to answer because of their lack of knowledge. It doesn’t help that these issues are clouded by vague concepts and legalistic terminology that is not easily understood by the everyday American.

We cannot stand for that. This rising debt doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.  Soon, it won’t be our parents’ problem, but instead, our problem. We will be working endlessly to make ends meet, and trying to fix the problems that could have been fixed had we been more proactive. I’m challenging all students to become more informed. Learn why the US debt has occurred, where the money is going, and what your representatives’ stances are. If you don’t like the direction we’re taking, petition to the government! Contact your congressmen and senators! Raise your voice!  In the end, this is going to be our problem. And it’s up to us.

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