Living on borrowed time solving Americas debt crisis

March 26, 2012
| By Rick Baker |
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It’s no secret that Washington has a spending problem that has created a debt crisis. Our federal debt stands at $15.5 trillion and our future liabilities total more than $118 trillion for federal government programs such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. For the debt alone, this equates to roughly a $136,250 price tag for every taxpayer in the country, and this year Americans paid $252 billion in interest on borrowing.

Gov. Rick Snyder recently testified before Congress that one of the biggest barriers to Michigan’s reinvention and our nation’s success is the federal debt, and more importantly the lack of a plan to address it. Michigan is a year removed from structurally balancing its budget and paying down its long-term liabilities. These were tough decisions, but necessary for our state to hit the reset button and move forward from a lost decade.

Because of Gov. Snyder’s plan, Michigan is working to strategically invest in its future. It is time for a similar plan in Washington. David Walker, the former U.S. comptroller, recently commented that “as we seek a way forward, we must acknowledge that government has grown too big, promised too much and waited too long to restructure itself.”

The truth is that, given the size and nature of our debt, we can't just grow, inflate, cut or tax our way out of the problem. Instead, to address this problem, everything must be on the table.

Walker attempted to share this message with Congress while he was the head of the Government Accountability Office under presidents Clinton and Bush, but Washington didn’t listen. Perhaps this is why he has left Washington to take the message to the people.

America’s debt is having a dramatic impact on our ability to attract jobs. Businesses look for strong economic climates and certainty. Our debt weakens this outlook, and many companies are taking a wait-and-see approach on America.

In fact, in the GRACC’s annual survey of job providers in the Greater Grand Rapids area, more than 75 percent of respondents indicated that the national economic climate is of great concern. Our organization is committed to helping our members by restoring that certainty.

Addressing this issue is key to ensuring America’s long-term competitiveness and maintaining our role as world leader. We desperately need Congress to put fiscal responsibility over politics and seriously address our nation’s debt. Every dollar we spend today that we don’t have is a dollar a future generation will have to pay for.

As Walker said, “We must take steps to ensure our future is as good as our past.”

Rick Baker is president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. GRACC will host former U.S. Comptroller David Walker for a luncheon on Tuesday, April 3, at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. More event information can be found at

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