(In a temporary departure from my regular blogging about cancer, I would like share an open letter I wrote this morning because this whole debt ceiling and deficit issue has me more stressed out at present than my struggle with Stage IIIC melanoma. – Jake)

Dear President Obama and Members of Congress,

As I’m sure your poll numbers are telling you, the American Public is less than impressed by your current posturing with respect to the debt crisis. And your efforts to scare monger have only made the situation worse. The only saving grace you have is that the numbers involved in the current debate are so large that the average voter’s eyes glaze over merely at the mention of all those zeroes.

This in turn has allowed you to posture with effectively meaningless numbers in the grand scheme of dealing with the outrageous amount of national debt that we, as voters who elected you to power, share as much responsibility for as you do. We were the parents who didn’t reprimand the misbehaving children, namely the Members of Congress who spent magnitudes more money than was realistically available.

The fact that our country now owes $14,300,000,000,000 to creditors is almost beyond comprehension, and the fact that President Obama and his Democratic colleagues want to increase that by another $2,400,000,000,000 for the next couple of years is audacious.

The current U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census’ Population Clock is 311,856,204. Divided into the current national debt of $14.3 trillion dollars that indicates that every man, woman, and child in the U.S. has a debt burden of $45,854.46, which is more than many people earn in a year.

And the additional $2.4 trillion increase to the debt being proposed raises that by another $7,695.85, to a total debt per capita of $53,550.31. Again, that is the amount of debt that will be on the shoulders of each individual man, woman, and child, should you all get your wish to continue to spend nearly unabated and further drive our country and our future into debt.

But the issue here should not be partisan politics. Both Republicans and Democrats are complicit in the hand waving and the empty solutions being offered to turn the debt situation around.

For example, based on estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, the 2011 budget of the United States, which covers October 2010-September 2011, covers expenditures of $3.708 trillion dollars. At the same time, revenues to the government only cover $2.228 trillion, resulting in an approximately $1.48 trillion dollar shortfall. That shortfall is called a deficit, and it results in an increase in the national debt.

Put in more down to earth terms, in the form of a personal spending example merely by lopping off eight zeros, imagine that your annual income is $22,280, but that you decide to actually spend $37,080. That means you’ve just put $14,800 of debt on your credit cards to cover the excess spending against your income! But it’s far worse than that because the amount of debt has been accumulating for decades with recent years just as bad as the present, meaning that with your annual salary of $22,280 you actually have accrued $143,000 in debt. Who in their right mind would do this as a matter of principle, year after year, with no regard for the future?

Oh, and next year, you’re planning on adding another $11,000 in debt too. Madness!

While an independent citizen has the recourse of filing for bankruptcy (which results in all sorts of other downstream financial problems, including the inability to get credit for many years), a country doesn’t really have that option, which is why taking active steps to reduce our national debt is so critical.

But here’s the rub, Mr. President and Members of Congress: None of the so-called debt reduction plans being proposed this week will reduce the debt. For example, the Boehner plan proposes to reduce government expenditures by $3 trillion dollars. Lost in the fine print is that this is over ten(!) years. That means a mere $300 billion dollars a year. And the Democratic plan isn’t any better. All these plans mean is that the annual deficit will be a tiny bit smaller, but it will still be there, and the national debt will continue to grow out of control.

You need to deal with eliminating the annual deficit, which has been running well over $1 trillion EACH YEAR. And once you stop increasing the national debt, you need to start paying the debt down as well.

That means you CANNOT be spending more than the government takes in in revenue every year, and in fact, you should only be spending part of that amount, since the balance should be going off to paying down the national debt.

What’s really required here is a proposal from someone to reduce government expenditures by $2 trillion a YEAR. We have had years of wretched excess, and now it’s time to do some extreme belt tightening to make up for those years of plentitude.

Of course, being politicians, you have lost sight of the fact that your job isn’t to be reelected, but is instead to be responsible to the interests of ALL U.S. citizens. In that, you have failed, abysmally. You have burdened us and our children with towering debt, and you just keeping increasing that burden.

And the suggestion that a Constitutional balanced budget amendment is necessary is merely smoke and mirrors. It’s like proposing a rule be put into place because you all can’t behave like responsible adults and not spend more than you’re taking in so you want someone else to tell you “No”. Never mind that you all know that such a Constitutional change will get bogged down in years of rhetoric and never acted upon.

We, the citizens of the United States, call upon you to man up (or woman up), be adults, and make some difficult and painful decisions with respect to slashing spending, entitlements, and subsidies. And yes, act with extreme self-restraint when it comes to spending.

I would suggest that many of you will not be reelected the next time an election comes up anyways based on current voter dissatisfaction, and you therefore take advantage of that scenario and just bite the bullet and kick-start a real austerity program. You won’t be popular with all the special interests out there, of course, but the rescue of this great country should not be a popularity contest, should it?

And yes, we acknowledge this won’t be easy for us as individuals either, but we’re all in this together, to the tune of at least $45,854.46 a person (and more should you raise the debt ceiling).

A few suggestions to help get you to where you really should be – namely spending within your means, with enough left over to pay down our national debt:

  1. Implement austerity measures in government, since you can best lead by example. This includes trimming back on perks, overly generous compensation packages, and collective bargaining.
  2. Reduce the bureaucratic burden on small business and individuals by ridding policies of mandates that only increase expense.
  3. Vote to reduce the salaries of all Members of Congress and the President, and their staffs, as well as reducing the expensive perks such elected officials enjoy. Share the pain that you will be spreading with our new austerity measures. Again, lead by example.
  4. Simplify the tax code. Might I suggest a 20% flat tax on all income above $20,000 for individuals with absolutely no deductions (including mortgage interest) permitted? And for business a similar flat tax after expenses? The sheer savings in bureaucratic overhead by going with such simplification would undoubtedly be enormous as well.
  5. Get rid of all non-life-critical entitlements and subsidies. Of course, every special interest group will argue that their entitlements and subsidies are critical, but perhaps this should be a time where such groups might want to find alternative sources of support instead of relying on the government. For some it might require them becoming competitive. Imagine that.
  6. Let those government institutions that are self-funded through user fees (or could be without the meddling of Congress), such as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, operate outside of the budget. And encourage existing institutions to come up with ways to fund their own operations so that they are not a budgetary drain.

I’m sure the creative thinkers in Congress can come up with other ways to cut costs and perhaps even find revenue from closed loopholes to deal with the elimination of the annual deficit and start reducing the national debt.

So, in closing, Mr. President and Members of Congress, we ask that you stop with the hand waving, rhetoric, and misleading proposals, and instead roll up your sleeves and make the hard decisions for which the American people of the future will thank you for, even if it means you may have give up hope of near-term reelection. The American people come before your own needs and desires.

Thank you for your time and efforts.


Jake Richter
Citizen of the United States of America