How Can We Pay the Bills?
Scroll down for the A Nation in Debt issue guide and other related materials.
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It is not unusual—and not necessarily a problem—for a government to have at least some debt. But how much is too much? Many Americans think the US national debt is too large and want to try to get it under control. By the end of fiscal year 2018, the US government owed around $21.7 trillion in gross federal debt ($15.8 trillion in public debt and $5.9 trillion in intragovernmental debt—money that is owed by one part of the government to another part). It was $10 trillion just ten years ago and is projected to rise to $34 trillion in another decade.
This issue book asks: What should we do to shrink the national debt? In addressing it, we have many things to con- sider and weigh. This guide lays out three ways of approaching the national debt. Some deal with reducing the debt more directly, while others would increase the debt in the short term with no long-term guarantee that the national debt would be reduced. Each suggests actions that we might take, but every action has trade-offs we should consider. By working through each option, we can come to our own individual and collective decisions about what we would support and under what conditions.
Option 1: Agree to limits.
This option says we have let the national debt become this large through complacence about the size of government and the many services and benefits it provides.
Option 2: Strengthen checks and balances.
This option says the national debt is out of control because we lack the basic mechanisms we need to ensure the government acts in a responsible way.
Option 3: Invest in growth first.
This option says that while our debt is quite large, it will be less of a problem if we can increase the growth rate of our economy.
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*Moderators must be affiliated with an accredited US-based college or university to be considered eligible for the micro grant.
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