Here's a ballpark figure. For every $2 that the U.S. government takes in these days, it spends nearly $3 — and we just borrow the difference.
I say "we," because it is you and I who are doing it. This is the way we like it.
We want our Social Security. We want our Medicare. We want our military. We want national parks and the FBI and all that other stuff.
But we are not crazy about paying for it. We like our deductions and tax breaks, too. Somebody else should pay, not us.
So it turns out that as long as Congress just keeps borrowing the difference, nobody squawks too much.
This makes us, dollar for dollar, the biggest deadbeats in history.
Our national debt is getting near $14 trillion. That's T-trillion. Soon it will be as big as the entire U.S. economy.
It's going to keep getting worse, too. Even if you buy the idea that a deficit is okay in a pinch, and a certain amount of debt is just fine, it can't keep growing indefinitely.
(I will now take a break while everybody squawks like a chicken and blames the opposite political party.)
Blame that liberal socialist Obama, if you want, although he is only the most recent guy to tack on a trillion here and a trillion there.
Blame the last guy, Bush, if you'd like. He made things worse by saying rich guys should not have to pay as much in taxes. Also, there was a war and a recession.
Oddly enough, we can't much blame the guy before that, Clinton. He was actually paying down the debt. But I realize that is saying something good about him, and we can't have that.
In general, both Republicans and Democrats have been awful about this. And if either one of 'em has a temporary fit of conscience and tries to fix anything, the other screams bloody murder for short-term advantage.
• • •
So President Barack Obama got together a bunch of Republicans and Democrats and asked them to figure out what to do about this debt. Say what you will about the guy, but this was a good idea.
Last week, this outfit revealed the range of ideas it is considering.
For one thing, the panel said, we have to spend less. Their ideas add up to $2 in reduced federal spending for every $1 raised in new revenue, which is the way to go.
That includes the military and Social Security.
One idea is to raise the retirement age eventually to 69, although there would be a "hardship exemption" for people over 62 who couldn't work.
But that ain't the half of it. Some of the other ideas the panel is considering will shock many Americans:
• Adding 15 cents a gallon to the current federal gas tax of 18.4 cents.
• Getting rid of the popular tax deductions for mortgage interest and children.
• Imposing Social Security taxes on higher incomes.
Hey, it's not all grim. They might propose lowering most tax rates, figuring that getting rid of the exemptions will make it possible.
It was the liberals who got in the first screams of protest.
Some outfit called "Democracy for America" (started by former national Democratic chairman Howard Dean) immediately blasted "the deficit commission's right-wing attacks on Social Security."
But the other guys will have their turn, too. Getting rid of deductions for mortgage interest and children? Jacking up the gas tax? Same old tired liberal solutions, they will say.
You know, Americans beat the Nazis and saved the world. Then we beat the Commies and saved the world again. These days, we aim to beat the terrorists, which I'm all for.
But I suspect this is a threat to the future of the United States, too, and if our only answer is, "Keep spending and let's don't pay for it," then we are gonna look pretty stupid in the history books.
• • •
Dang! I probably oughta take a couple of weeks off. See you at the end of the month.