EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

March 24, 2013

Column: We're upside down and the debt crash is coming

In the movie “Flight,” something major goes wrong with a passenger jet. It starts plunging downward, the pilot amazingly, incredibly rolls the plane upside down to keep it just barely under control, and, at this point, if President Barack Obama were watching, he’d probably stand up to reassure the audience.

“We don’t have an immediate crisis,” he would say, an encouraging smile on his face. “The plane is in a sustainable place.”

The plane wasn’t. Though still in the air, it was definitely heading for a crash, just as our economy and federal government are heading for a crash. The issue is a debt that still menaces the American future, no matter what the president said to ABC correspondent George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America.”

He pleasantly maintained that deals with Republicans about such things as fiscal cliffs and debt ceilings meant budgetary reasonableness, if not fulfillment of all the best possibilities. His stated view is that we are in a non-crisis situation “sustainable” for the next decade.

Nope. The real prospect is for a $16 trillion-plus debt growing to an economy-squeezing, budget-banging, catastrophe-inviting $23 trillion. You think that’s rabble-rousing right-wingers talking? It’s nonpartisan number crunchers in the Congressional Budget Office.

Obama has made it sound as if the accomplishments to date ought to elicit a grin a minute from his once-fretful debt commission. It’s still fretful, as Jonathan Karl of ABC reveals in quotes from interviews with its two leaders, Democrat Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, and Republican Alan Simpson, the always colorful, always wise ex-senator from Wyoming.

There’s trillions of dollars more work to do, said Bowles. The responsible parties have stayed away from the “tough stuff,” such gargantuan matters as making Social Security solvent or reforming the tax code to make it work. Simpson’s word of the day was “madness.” Americans are reaching the age of 65 at the rate of 10,000 a day, he said, and federal programs for them are going to “eat a hole through America.” Lack of action is not just irresponsible, his words suggested. It is insane.

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