By Fred Kammer, S.J.
The nation was held prisoner this past summer as our politicians played “chicken” with one another about raising the debt ceiling, slashing spending, increasing revenue, or somehow reneging on our fiscal obligations to ourselves and to external creditors. A last-minute deal was reached at the end of July, but it still cost us our Triple-A credit rating. Now there is a new congressional “supercommittee” at work on the debt.
But stop for a minute! It is helpful to know a bit about where the debt has come from and, perhaps, to reconsider the responsibilities of various actors for our current debt mess. Fair or not, many,observers place the credit or blame for the budget on the person sitting in the White House and their political party. As President Harry Truman put it, “The buck stops here.” So, for our first look at the debt numbers, we turn to the accrual of debt in the presidencies going back as far as President Reagan. Prior to Reagan, the overall debt from all prior administrations was a total of $1.0 trillion, accrued from the costs of wars and earlier economic hard times and, yes, the failure to pay our bills or cut our costs. But, from Reagan on, the debt has grown dramatically and exponentially, as shown by the chart on page 5.1