By Ron Meyer, Young America’s Foundation June 12, 201225 years ago, President Reagan delivered a fatal blow to communism with his “Tear Down This Wall” speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany. Like no President before him, President Reagan believed in freeing people from the slavery of communism—not only in containing its growth. Thanks largely to his administration’s efforts, America won the Cold War and 500 million people in the Eastern Hemisphere enjoy more freedom.Today, we face a problem twice the size of the Berlin Wall. Well, sort of. Using our nearly $16 trillion national debt, you could create the equivalent of more than two Berlin Walls (67 miles long, 12 feet tall, and eight inches thick) with $100 bills. If Reagan had the gumption to speak truth to a nuclear power at a real wall, our leaders should have the bravery to speak truth to the American people about this metaphorical wall. Unlike communism, the debt hasn’t murdered 100 million people, but just like with communism, if allowed to fester, it will become a real barrier to the American Dream.The big problem isn’t the debt-to-GDP ratio as many mainstreamers say. Our ratio is already worse than Greece’s. The real problem is the interest on the debt. Every year, each American taxpayer pays more than $3,000 on average just for interest payments. In five years, the federal government will spend more on these annual interest payments than on Medicare spending—keeping in mind than Medicare is the fastest growing and one of the biggest federal expenditures. In six years, these interest payments will be bigger than our entire defense budget. According to the CBO, by 2020 our interest payments will be around $8,000 per taxpayer, sucking up more than 4 percent of America’s total GDP. Where are we going to get the money to pay the interest—let alone the principle—on our debt? The interest payments will personally bankrupt taxpayers and destroy our financial freedom unless we act soon. Yet, just as the Left downplayed the threat of Communism, they’re downplaying the threat of the national debt. The Obama administration’s former chief economist, Austin Goolsbee, has said “Washington isn’t spending too much,” and the New York Times’ Paul Krugman thinks “the debt we create is basically money we owe to ourselves.”
“Peaceful coexistence” and containment didn’t work with communism and it won’t work for the national debt. Before our government becomes so insolvent that it begins taking out debt to pay off the interest on our debt, we must eradicate the national debt.Not contain, eradicate. Balancing the budget in 20 or 30 years is equivalent to containment. It’s just managing America’s decline. We need to balance the budget in five years at the most, and we need to start paying off the debt. Some say we need spending to prop up our economy, but it’s oxymoronic to supposedly help taxpayers by bankrupting them. If President Reagan were here today, he wouldn’t be afraid to take on our nation’s biggest barriers to freedom. Our current leaders like to quote President Reagan, but, with a couple exceptions, none of them have the gusto to back up these quotes with actions. Washington is full of cowards. President Reagan didn’t just say “Tear Down This Wall,” he backed it up with crippling military spending and support for freedom-fighters across the globe. It’s not enough to say “Fix this Debt,” our leaders need to enact entitlement reform and cut federal departments that could be run better by the states. Today, we honor President Reagan’s courage at the Berlin Wall. In 25 years, let’s hope the next generation can honor our own. Ron Meyer is a program officer with Young America’s Foundation. Young America’s Foundation saved the President Reagan’s ranch, Rancho del Cielo, in 1998. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.