Some quick numbers:
- Nationwide, our total personal income last year was just a hair over $12 trillion.
- If the tax burden on that income were the 12% recent historical average, we'd kick another $337 billion toward our public debt.
- Unfortunately, we have just under $17 trillion in public debt at the national, state, and local levels.
But what are we spending that money on? Check out this graphic:
Right now, the recession, the bailout, and the stimulus are responsible for about 60% of our deficit. But the bailouts are wrapping up and putting cash back in the kitty. The stimulus runs out next year (which is the first thing every South Dakota legislative and gubernatorial candidate should be talking about). Heck, we might even get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. For most of the coming decade, the single biggest deficit driver will be the Bush tax cuts—i.e., our unwillingness to pay for the fighter jets, border patrol agents, Medicare drug benefits, and other goodies that we all love and that not one serious candidate for South Dakota's lone House seat is willing to part with.
Candidates can talk all they want about reducing government. We still have to pay the bills we've already racked up. And current tax rates suggest we are all shirking our responsibility to pay for what we've used.
If you're serious about eliminating the national debt, step one is to let the Bush tax cuts expire... unless, of course, you can identify $693 billion to remove from the annual budget by 2019.