Thursday, February 25, 2010
Secretary of State says massive debt threatens U.S. security
In Washington, sometimes, the truth comes out when everybody least expects it, like when they're looking for something else. That seems to be what happened Thursday when, testifying before Congress on the U.S. State Department's request for additional funding, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated outright that the country's burgeoning deficit -- $1.4 trillion and growing -- threatened the country's security. Gee, you think? "We have to address this deficit and the debt of the United States as a matter of national security, not only as a matter of economics," Clinton told lawmakers on various committees, according to the Reuters international news service. "I do not like to be in a position where the United States is a debtor nation to the extent that we are." And, as if that wasn't obvious enough, Clinton added that debt to other nations hinders "our ability to protect our security, to manage difficult problems and to show the leadership that we deserve." So, was she talking to ordinary citizens who don't have advanced degrees in economics but still are able to understand what's going on, or to the Washington political elite who have the sheepskins but still seem unable to get it? Continuing deficits are the result of deliberate decision-making -- it's possible to make mistakes in the short term but by the time it's the long term, the term "mistake" doesn't cover it. Of particular concern to Washington is China's ownership of nearly $800 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds, Reuters said, and the possibility of Beijing trying to force changes in policy as a result. "The moment of reckoning cannot be put off forever," Clinton said. Of course, the value of China's holdings are directly related to the continued vibrancy of the U.S. economy, so Beijing has a strong interest in not forcing it to derail. But why doesn't the Congress have that same interest? What did they think would be the result of cutting taxes by billions of dollars at the same time they were authorizing the spending of hundreds of billions on an offensive war in Iraq? The $4.9 billion increase in the State Department budget is to pay for diplomatic and development work in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Clinton said. "We are now assuming so many of the post-conflict responsibilities, and that is the bulk of our increase," she said.