5.7 trillion. It’s an almost unimaginably huge number. It’s about six times the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. It’s more than five times the amount that federal, state and local governments combined spend on educating our children every year. It is almost half as large as America’s entire GDP. And yet, that is what America will spend on interest on the national debt over the next decade—not principal—interest. And things are quickly getting worse. President Obama’s budgets will add more than $10 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, and America’s debt to GDP ratio will jump from an already alarming 63% today to 90% by the end of the decade.
America is clearly on a fiscal crash course. Fortunately, some politicians have shown courage and put forward solid ideas to put America back on a sustainable path. However these solutions are said to lack compassion; the left spreads doomsday scenarios about Americans cancelling retirements, going without medical care and even spending their waning years eating dog food. No bombast, hyperbole or imagination is spared in the left’s attempt to convince Americans that any action to control the growth of entitlement spending is a heartless sop to rich voters.
The problem with these supposedly compassion based arguments from the left is that entitlement reform is no longer optional—it is an absolute existential imperative. No amount of willful ignorance can erase tens of trillions in debt or prevent an implosion of America’s social safety net when the money finally runs out.
Given the need for entitlement reform it’s worth asking: which side in American politics is truly compassionate? The left has long claimed to be the advocates of society’s downtrodden and abused. And rather than challenge the left’s false assumption of the meaning of compassion, the American right has all too often fallen into the trap of trying to outspend the other side rather than promoting its core philosophy which is inherently compassionate and empowering.
I ask the left: what is compassionate about spending $5.7 trillion on interest alone every ten years when that money could be better spent on education, or left to America’s families? What is compassionate about hoovering up an ever larger portion of America’s wealth to send to overseas creditors? What could possibly be compassionate about trying to convince Americans that the programs they have paid into their whole lives are safe and dependable when the exact opposite is true?
The debate over entitlement reform is not a dichotomy between the heartless right and the compassionate left. It is between a realistic, compassionate and forward thinking right and a woefully ignorant, irresponsible left. With so much at stake, nothing could be more compassionate than putting America back on a responsible, sustainable path to secure a bright future for America’s children.
Zach Howell is the National Chairman of the College Republican National Committee