"A billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you are talking real money." That quote is attributed to the late Sen. Everett Dirksen. However, in the last few years, the U.S. debt has been elevated far beyond Dirksen's "real money" references.
We are now talking trillions.
In 1791, the national debt was $75 million, according to the Bureau of the Public Debt figures on Ed Hall's National Debt Clock website. Today, it increases by that much every hour or so. It ballooned a trillion dollars to $10 trillion in fiscal 2008; that's about $4 billion a day and some $35,000 for each man, woman and child. Add to that Medicare, Social Security, and other unfunded federal obligations and the number balloons to trillions more.
The fiscal hole we are digging is getting deeper thanks to the financial mess in which the country is in. It's sure to get worse. The debt is one thing. Where the money is coming from is quite another.
It started with bailouts to save financial institutions holding bad mortgages such as AIG ($85 billion), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ($200 billion), Bear Stearns ($29 billion), JP Morgan Chase ($87 billion), and others.
Who knows where it all will end? Some bailout recipients have already come back for seconds.
The beat goes on
After all that, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson asked for a $700 billion bailout plan to stimulate availability of credit for small businesses, student loans, and auto and home loans. The handout line continues to grow.
Fifty billion dollars went to insure mutual funds. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC)) wants billions to help Americans avoid foreclosure because of bad mortgages, where I thought the original $700 billion was to go. The federal pension guarantee agency fears it'll run out of funds as companies go broke and workers lose their pensions. That'll probably happen with businesses closing their doors and workers losing their jobs.
The country lost 1.9 million jobs in the past year. There is talk the recession may nose-dive into a depression. Let's remember that the 1.9 million who lost their jobs are already in a depression.
The Detroit Big Three automakers came begging to Congress for what started at $25 billion to avoid bankruptcy and ended up as a $38 billion request. The White House jumped in and offered a $17 billion bailout.
The government hired two law firms at $5 million apiece for starters just to process the paper work. States are asking for a slice of the federal pie to cover...