Changing the conversation about national debt

By Emily Hutto


As debt plagues the nation, it's important that conversation about it expand beyond political debate.

In the past three years, city officials of Stockton, California have reduced medical benefits and reduced wages, in addition to laying off a quarter of their police force, a third of their firefighters and 40 percent of other employees in attempt to combat their incredible debt.

Stockton, the U.S. city with the second-highest foreclosure rate, has a deficit of approximately $26 million. Officials are currently deciding whether or not to declare the city bankrupt.

That $26 million is one small slice of the state of California's deficit pie, which has increased by 70 percent to $15.7 billion in the last six months. The economic hardship that California is experiencing nods to the country's collective debt, which now sits at $15.7 trillion.

Our debt is a highly debated topic, especially with presidential elections around the corner. Republicans are advocating tax and spending cuts and health care repeal to reduce this ever-expanding number, whereas Democrats have suggested another round of targeted spending. According to the Associated Press, President Obama called the United States economy "the defining issue of our time." Obama, Romney and their advisors all disagree about what to do about it though, so Americans can expect these debates to heat up, and perhaps even ignite.

Beyond elections and discussions on Capitol Hill, the country's debt is so concerning that it's making its way into school textbooks. Diane Lim Rodgers, chief economist of the Concord Coalition, has been commissioned to write a reference book on national debt that will be distributed to public libraries, high schools and college campuses. It is intended to educate ordinary citizens about both the weight and future of our federal debt. The book will be written within the next year.

As debt plagues the nation, it's important that conversation about it expand beyond political debate. Media like this reference book will become critical for educating citizens about this defining issue of our time.

What do you think is the best way to educate the public about debt?