On November 2, House GOP leaders unveiled a new tax plan that would limit the number of tax brackets to four, increasing the income range in each bracket. Six days later, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released an analysis that found the plan would add $1.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.
The Office also projected that if the tax plan were to pass, the total United States debt would become nearly equal to the GDP, or the total production value of the country, by 2027. Surpass this amount and the debt would be higher than total output. Imagine trying to pay that off. The House approved the plan last week.
The current debt stands at $20 trillion, an amount not seen since post-World War II.
The national debt has rarely come up in policy debates recently. But why should we as citizens worry? Isn’t this more of a government problem?
According to the Albion team of Up to Us, the national debt is a people problem — we’re the ones who will be paying it off. It’s their mission to help the college-age population understand this.
Up to Us is a nonpartisan movement and competition whose goal is to raise awareness about the national debt and how it impacts every person’s life. Students assemble teams at their respective colleges and compete against one another. The college that engages the most students wins a $10,000 cash prize and a trip to Washington, D.C. to speak about national debt policy with political leaders.
“I think [the national debt] is really interesting because I never cared about that — like normal people do. Not many people care about the national debt,” said Ramona Huang, a junior from Shenzhen, China.
Huang and three other members of Albion’s Up to Us have been hosting events, just like their competitors have, to raise national debt awareness this fall. Their first event was a simple engagement — here’s the situation and here’s an online pledge you can sign that states you will remain conscious of the national debt. Their second was held November 9, where students could take their picture in an Instagram frame cut-out that stated “up to us” and post it on social media.
Essentially, every student engaged at each event is a point for their team in standings. Albion currently sits at 13 out of 55 teams, beating out colleges like Duke University and Ohio State University.
“I tried to talk them into the idea that, you know, just because you go to a small liberal arts school doesn’t mean you can’t run with folks from Texas or California or Harvard,” said John Carlson, Team Albion’s adviser and assistant professor of economics and management.
Since he began working at Albion, Carlson has tried to get students involved in academic competitions. He came across this competition this year and wanted to get students involved since it is a topic he says affects everyone.
Carlson said that academic competitions not only shows how strong a college is, it gives the students who participate confidence. And although he would be “tickled pink” to see Albion’s team place in the top 10, he is encouraging them to shoot for a top three finish.
Even as an accountant, Carlson said that a number as large as $20 trillion debt is tough to comprehend. To put the number into perspective, if the debt were to be paid off immediately, each U.S. citizen would have to pay over $60,000 each to the government.
The United States’ debt is just like the debt we face in regular life. We borrow money with interest, but if we keep putting off payment for that borrowing, the debt will eventually hit a critical mass and our finances will crash under the burden.
What does this accumulation of debt by the United States mean to us? Carlson said that a portion of this debt is owed to citizens. Anytime we buy something like a savings bond, we are lending the government money and they pay interest for it. The more we lend, the less likely the nation is able to give back.
According to the Up to Us organization that hosts the competition, the more debt the nation accumulates, the more its people will need to pay in taxes. The government will also be forced to spend a larger and larger portion of their budget on paying off the debt, limiting the amount of money it can spend on government programs and services.
“The bottom line is, being an old-fashioned accountant, somebody’s going to have to pay that someday,” said Carlson.
If you would like to learn more about the national debt and how it affects you, Albion’s Up to Us will have a table at the Kellogg Center November 27 from 2 to 5 p.m.