In 2009, the U.S. government accrued a record $1.4 trillion in debt -- three times as much as the previous record set in 2008. The federal government has spent so far beyond its means that we have once again reached the debt ceiling, a Congress-mandated cap on how high a tab the Treasury can run. For the third time since last January, the Senate finds itself in the unenviable position of having to raise the debt ceiling yet again to compensate for our bloated government spending. The Senate will vote this week on a ceiling increase that would enable the Treasury to borrow another $1.9 trillion, for a total debt limit of $14.29 trillion. If it passes, the debt limit will have increased by a whopping 35 percent since President Obama took office only one year ago.
The Administration has chosen to blame much of its woes on the past, yet with another debt limit increase, it is no longer credible to pin the nation's fiscal imbalances on past actions. When discussing much smaller debt limit increases in 2006, even then-Senator Obama, declared that raising the debt limit shifts "the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren," and called it "a failure of leadership." Washington needs to move beyond pointing fingers. It is imperative that everyone -- the President and Congress, Democrats and Republicans -- begin looking to the future. If we do not start taking fiscal responsibility seriously, America will have no choice but to forfeit its role as a strong and noble leader throughout the world.
It is a common misconception that our current trend of massive borrowing can continue forever with no negative consequences. It is dangerous and na*ve to assume that because nothing bad has happened yet, nothing ever will. In no other walks of life would our current borrowing behavior be deemed responsible or even acceptable. If you are on the edge of bankruptcy, you don't take out another huge loan to buy a Ferrari. Yet Congress is now looking to buy that Ferrari. When you refuse to pay back what you've borrowed, eventually those you borrowed from show up looking to get it back.
The United States emerged from the rubble of World War II as the undisputed economic leader throughout the world. We've taken great pride in this status, crowning our parents and grandparents as the "Greatest Generation." We cannot take for granted the gift they have given us. If we do not curb our reckless borrowing, we will spend away our position of global leadership. Indeed, by the end of this year, America's debt will exceed the limit allowed by the European Union. Think about that contrast: a half century after leading Europe out of its postwar depression, the United States would not financially qualify to be a part of the European community.
This is a cold reality to face, but we can, and must, begin taking steps to prevent it. It starts with putting our foot down on the debt ceiling. Fiscal responsibility can no longer be a political catchphrase, it must be our purpose.