Skip to content
U.S. National Debt:


By Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

Numerically, one trillion dollars has twelve zeroes---$1,000,000,000,000. A one thousand dollar stack of one dollar bills measures 4.3 inches high. A one million dollar stack of one dollar bills measures 358 feet high. A one billion dollar stack of one dollar bills measures nearly 68 miles high. A one trillion dollar stack of one dollar bills measures nearly 67,900 miles high. Now, multiply one trillion by 13 and you have the historic, yet shameful, level to which our national debt has risen as of last Wednesday, June 2, 2010, according to the Treasury Department.

Reaching the eye-popping milestone of $13 trillion in federal debt, which amounts to $42,000 per American, is shocking, but the fact that we have reached it is, sadly, unsurprising. The federal government has been fiscally irresponsible for decades. This reckless spending has exploded over the past two years, with current and future tax dollars spent, mostly against the will of the majority of Americans, on massive stimulus and appropriations bills, bailouts and the health care bill.

In addition, the federal government has made unwarranted incursions into the private sector economy with the takeover of insurance company AIG and automotive companies Chrysler and GM, bailouts for supposedly "too big to fail" companies, and the takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, federal student loans, and much of the health care economy. I opposed each of these big spending, big-government proposals.

Some in Washington now argue that we need to raise taxes to solve our debt problems. But to raise taxes to levels high enough to reduce this debt would dampen an already struggling economy. Taxes would have to rise dramatically for those in the middle- and lower-income levels as well as those in the upper-income levels. The top one percent of income earners already pays more in income taxes than the bottom 95 percent combined, and the President promised that no one making under $250,000 would see a tax increase. This promise was broken by the tax increases in the health care bill. If increasing taxes is the plan for reducing our debt, then that already broken promise will be shattered.

The government cannot tax itself out of this massive debt any more than it can spend its way into prosperity. The current size and debt of the government is a drain on the economy. Raising taxes on top of this will act further to destroy incentive, productivity and growth in the economy, which means fewer jobs and dwindling tax revenue.

Continued massive spending and increased taxes is not a solution; it is a downward spiral. We need to reform our tax code so that we can increase our international competitiveness and strengthen our domestic economy. Reduced spending, a steadfast refusal to raise taxes, and reform of our tax code will bring incentive, productivity and growth to the economy, new jobs to the American people and a growing tax base.

The country of Greece recently found out where reckless spending and fiscal irresponsibility leads---to national bankruptcy and, in this case, violent riots in the streets. Greece is now depending on other countries to bail them out. Greece is a relatively small country; America is one of the largest. If the President and the majority in Congress continue the reckless spending of your tax dollars, and your children's and grandchildren's future tax dollars, who will bail us out?

Word Count: 562