HOLDING: Debt Is Out-of-Control

FILE- In this Thursday, May 19, 2016, file photo, Rep. George Holding speaks during the 2nd Congressional District Republican primary debate at WRAL studio in Raleigh, N.C. The most watched race in the congressional primaries on Tuesday, June 7, is the 2nd District GOP, where two sitting members of Congress are running against each other for the first time since 2012: Holding of Raleigh and Renee Ellmers of Dunn. Cary obstetrician Greg Brannon is also in the race. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP, Pool, File)

Decades of irresponsible, out-of-control government spending has left the United States drowning in an unprecedented level of debt. Last month, our national debt topped $22 trillion. Divided up, that comes to about $400,000 per taxpayer.

The debt poses the most significant threat to the long-term national and economic security of the United States. But, don’t be mistaken — this is not merely some future problem that will have to be dealt with by generations to come. Whether we realize it or not, we are already facing the consequences of our government’s rampant fiscal irresponsibility.

The national debt impedes the government’s ability to fund critical public priorities, respond to cyclical economic changes, and defend our nation against threats at home and abroad.

Interest payments on the debt are the fastest growing line item in our entire budget. This year, taxpayers will spend nearly $400 billion on interest alone. And that figure is expected to nearly triple over the next decade. The hundreds of billions we spend on interest could — and should — be used to improve our schools, strengthen our military, develop new technology and clean energy, and invest in infrastructure.

Perhaps what is most concerning about our worsening fiscal situation is the culture of complacency with which it is met by our nation’s most prominent politicians and pundits. Rather than addressing the issue, these leaders are lending their support to some of the most expensive federal government program proposals in history.

For instance, over the past few weeks, dozens of Democrats in Congress have signed on to support the “Green New Deal” — an outlandish plan to fundamentally restructure the U.S. economy. Initial estimates place the price tag in the ballpark of $93 trillion over the next 10 years.

And that’s not all — from Medicare for All to a federal government jobs guarantee, leading Democratic politicians and 2020 candidates are clamoring to spend billions upon billions of dollars that we simply don’t have.

Politicians used to, at the very least, pretend to care about our national debt. But apparently things have changed — nowadays it doesn’t even register an afterthought.

At its core, our national debt, and the refusal of politicians to address it, is a direct symptom of broken politics in Washington. Many politicians pay lip service to fiscal responsibility, but when push comes to shove, they vote to increase spending and drive our nation further into debt.

The calculus is simple — creating new programs or increasing funding for existing ones is naturally going to be more popular than voting to slash spending. And as most politicians are primarily concerned with getting re-elected, these tough, often unpopular, votes to reduce spending simply are not worth the political risk.

A bold and permanent solution is required to compel politicians to address the situation and put our nation back on sound fiscal footing. A balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution — a proposal which I have repeatedly supported — would force Washington to address our burgeoning national debt by mandating that Congress must balance federal spending with federal revenue in their annual budgets.

This is not a new or radical idea. Budgeting is a fundamental life skill. Families have to make tough decisions every day to stay within their means — why should our government act any different?

America’s $22 trillion debt poses an existential threat to our nation and our way of life. Since it is clear politicians won’t take the lead in addressing it, we need to force them to do what is right.

Ultimately, when talking about this issue, it is important to remember what is at stake in the long run. We have always been a nation with an eye towards the future — a people committed to passing along to future generations a stronger, safer and more prosperous country.

Our actions today threaten to undermine this treasured national ideal. If we fail to change course, our children and grandchildren will pay a steep price for our fiscal irresponsibility.

I am committed to ensuring that does not happen. And I hope you feel the same way.

Congressman George Holding represents the 2nd Congressional District of North Carolina and lives in Raleigh