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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

National debt is our biggest security threat: Column

Despite their rhetoric, Republican presidents have been more the problem than the solution
President-elect Donald Trump's recent public rebuff on social media of his own party's secretive actions to gut the Congressional ethics board was a breath of fresh air. But that is not the only issue he should push back on with Congressional Republicans.

Under a Republican budget resolution, the national debt will explode by a third from an already staggering $19 billion to $29 trillion over the next ten years. Although counterintuitive, Democratic presidents, at least those after World War II, have reduced deficits as a portion of the value of the national economy (GDP) while Republican presidents have increased them - thus accumulating less public debt as a percentage of GDP. Yet neither political party has paid enough attention to this burgeoning national security problem.

National security problem? Yes. General Mike Mullen, while he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation's top military man, was enlightened enough about long-term health of American power to realize that it takes continuing infusions of money to acquire the weapons and equipment, personnel, training, maintenance and benefits to create a credible military to adequately defend the country. In addition, all other indices of national power - political, diplomatic and cultural - require money too.

To generate those resources, a strong economy is needed. The number one problem dragging down economic growth rates through the George W. Bush and Barack Obama presidencies was a crippling national debt. In turn, even slight differences in economic growth rates over time among great powers can shake up the pecking order among them. With the Chinese economy's double-digit growth rates in recent years, that is an ominous sign for the long-term international standing and power of the United States.

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