Opinion

Rising Interest on America’s Debt Threatens Our National Defense and Our Future

Voters should not elect candidates who disregard the issue

A man walks by the Marriner S. Eccles Federal Reserve Board Building in Washington on Aug. 23, 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are in the homestretch of a presidential campaign to determine who will lead our country as commander in chief and CEO for the next four years. The rhetoric in this election season has been combative, to say the least, and everything that can possibly be said has been said on both sides.

But as the second presidential debate approaches, a logical and understandable discussion has yet to be had on how rising interests costs on our out-of-control deficit spending and fast rising national debt threaten the essential financial resources that must be put toward our nation’s national defense, homeland security, and other needed discretionary programs to benefit the American people, now and in future years.  

For fiscal 2016, interest on the national debt is expected to cost the federal government $255 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). And, while this number may seem high to most Americans, interest rates today are at historic lows when compared to years past.

Ominously, the U.S. Federal Reserve Board is on track to gradually raise interest rates, and economic forecasts clearly show interest rates and interest expense dramatically rising over the next decade. By 2026, the CBO projects that the annual cost of interest on the national debt will reach $830 billion, well over three times what the cost is for this fiscal year.  

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-6-19-42-pm

The rise in our nation’s annual interest expense over the next ten years would dramatically squeeze the funds available for the U.S. government to spend on discretionary programs, which are already dangerously limited, to less than one-third of the annual federal budget because of spending on mandatory entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and federal employee retirement programs.

And, remember that defense spending already accounts for more than half of our annual projected discretionary spending. So, since interest costs are also mandatory and must be paid currently, we must begin to reform entitlement spending or increase revenue through economic growth and/or tax reform over the next decade, to prevent discretionary spending and our nation’s security from increasingly becoming hostage to rising interest expense on our national debt.     

The fact that our federal government’s currently unsustainable fiscal path is threatening the financial resources we must provide for our country’s vital national defense and homeland security in an age of ISIS (and homegrown terrorism) is a discussion we need to have in the next presidential debate. But, it is a serious discussion that is unlikely to take place unless the American people are made to understand the dangerously unsustainable economic and financial path we are currently on.

The burden of putting our nation back on sound financial footing falls to us, the American people. We cannot elect candidates who disregard our nation’s future sustainability as a real issue. And, we must hold accountable, through the ballot box on Election Day, those elected officials and candidates for high office who, year after year, fail to address America’s deteriorating long-term financial position.

While there is still time for real action, the clock on our national “debt bomb” is ticking, and annually fast rising interest costs may well be the fuse that sets it off.

DioGuardi , a former Republican congressman from Westchester County, New York, is the president of Truth In Government

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.