We can, and should, finally address the national debt

The public sent a message this month that they don’t support
extremist candidates
. Instead, people want
sensible policy
and political leaders who can get things done. The new moderates in Congress would do well to address the extreme threat currently ignored by both ends of the political spectrum: our ballooning national debt.

Americans collectively owe
over $31 trillion
. To put that in perspective, each citizen owes a little over $93,000. Even that number underestimates the scale of the crisis as not all citizens pay taxes. If you are a taxpayer in this country, your share of the debt is almost a
quarter of a million dollars

This staggering amount constrains our economic flexibility. In just a few years, paying interest on the debt will take up
more of our budget than the military
. As the Federal Reserve raises interest rates to fight inflation, newly elected politicians must recognize how our decadeslong spending spree simply isn’t sustainable. This year, the U.S. added another
$1.4 trillion
to the debt.

Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of this debt is not owned by foreign investors. Most of it is
to U.S. government entities or has been promised to future Americans. Unfortunately, we increasingly rely on
foreign entities
such as China and Japan to fund our bloated budget. As tensions with China
ratchet up
, it may not be wise to rely on their investment to fund our government.

The good news is that there is
widespread public support
for paying down the national debt. The recent midterm elections showed a renewed interest in
centrist candidates
who could plausibly capitalize on this majority. Republicans viewed as
too closely aligned
with far-right views ran hotly contested races and often lost. Similarly,
progressive Democrats
in typically blue states also
. As moderates take the foreground, Congress must take meaningful steps to address this national emergency.

Congress should start by rethinking its budgeting process. Right now,
2,000-plus page omnibus spending bills
are rushed through Congress at a disgraceful pace. Representatives
don’t even read
the spending bills they pass, making it impossible for Americans to dictate how they spend their money. Elected officials should take the time to deliberate, compromise, and pass separate spending measures — even if it means holding up other legislation.

Fortunately, tackling the debt doesn’t have to be a political albatross. Exit polls from this election reflect Americans’ concern about
, and it’s evident that
government stimulus
was part of the problem. Policies aimed at cutting
, reducing regulations, and
closing tax loopholes
to reduce the deficit should be able to win a bipartisan agreement, and their passage would demonstrate that Congress prioritizes the American people and
economic stability

Admittedly, these are lofty goals. But if we can’t improve our spending habits, Congress should at least try not to make things worse. Congress should work on paying for what we currently buy before initiating new
government expenditures

And yet, despite high interest rates and a mounting debt, the Biden administration keeps on spending. The administration’s recent attempt to pass off billions of privately held
student loan debt
onto the taxpayer displays a stunning lack of attention to our revenue shortfalls. Attempting to repay private debts by borrowing more money is a scheme only a politician could entertain.

The midterm elections reflect a desire for sensible solutions. People want lasting change, not extreme partisan bickering. Favored centrists should prioritize trimming down the national debt to stabilize our economy, strengthen our international position, and win votes. Let’s hope they get the message.


Sean-Michael Pigeon is a Young Voices fellow. He holds a B.A. in political science and history from Yale University.

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