No. 948



My good friend Joe Heird, who retired after 40-plus years with the federal government, gave me something recently that really helped to place our national debt in perspective. Anyone in our country who is halfway informed knows that our national debt is now more than $17 trillion. Almost from the time I started writing this column back in 1995, I began to inform, or even warn, my readers that one of the major problems facing our nation was the ever-increasing debt we were incurring. I don’t have a degree in economics, or anything else for that matter, but I just know that the same principles for managing money on a personal level apply to our local, state and national governments as well. It’s very simple. If you spend more than you take in, you are going in debt that sooner or later must be paid.
When we begin to talk about debt, we know that all we have to do is add zeros to go from million to billion to trillion. When we say those words it’s not much difference in the amount of effort it takes to say them. Please repeat after me, “million, billion and trillion.” See how easy that is? But, what a difference each of these words means when we talk about being in debt to someone, some other country or another creditor. Here is what Joe said that really got me to thinking and is the best way I have ever seen to help the American people realize what we are leaving for our children and grandchildren, and their children and grandchildren, for generations to come. I am not sure of Joe’s source, but knowing him, he has checked it out and it’s reliable. What someone has done is take these three terms and translated them into seconds.
Here is how it shakes out. A million seconds is 12 days, a billion seconds is 31 years and a trillion seconds is 31,688 years. Now, you think about what I have just said, and realize our nation is now more than $17 trillion in debt. I might add, the interest each year on our debt is more than $500 billion. That is money we are giving to someone else (our major lender is China) and we could be using that money to provide services to our own people and to rebuild our economy. What I am going to say from this point forward is personal, but it is offered without partisan politics or any other motive involved, and only meant to enable our nation to get back on a solid financial footing.
It all begins with truly understanding the problem. Once the majority of our citizens can do that, we can begin to take steps to correct it. It is just human nature to want something for nothing, especially if we think what we are getting is not hurting anyone else. But what many people fail to realize is that we can and will always take care of those who have a real need, but those people who cheat, lie and abuse our system must be cut off or eliminated. Instead of giving people in the latter group “something for nothing,” we must devise a system of built-in incentives that encourage success through hard work, honesty, integrity, self-reliance and being of service to others.
There is no doubt that we live in uncertain times, but I still believe America is the greatest nation in the history of mankind, and that our people will overcome the adversity that seeks to list us among the also-rans. Abraham Lincoln probably said it best, “America will never be defeated from the outside. If we fall and lose our freedom, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)