Howard Schultz: Federal debt is out of control, but no one is doing anything about it

Editor’s Note: Fox News Channel will televise a town hall with potential independent presidential candidate and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. EDT Thursday. “Special Report” anchor Bret Baier and “The Story” anchor Martha MacCallum will question Schultz and take audience questions in the live broadcast from Kansas City, Missouri.

How many times do we have to hear it? The federal debt is out of control. In New York City, there is a giant clock that lets visitors from across the country and the world know just how far we’ve maxed out the national credit card. Does it stop? No. Does anyone address it? No.

Is anyone in Washington willing to have an honest conversation about the largest financial sinkhole the world has ever known? It appears the answer is no.

As a nation we are $22 trillion in debt and likely further into the red next year by another $897 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. This level of debt is a threat to economic growth, opportunity, national security and the sustainability of programs people depend on.

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In just five years we will spend more on interest than we spend on the entire military budget. Interest payments in 2019 will cost more than what we spent on the Departments of Agriculture, Education, and Veterans Affairs combined last year.

What we are experiencing is the result of a broken two-party system that is engaged in revenge politics and gotten used to handing out free stuff – from tax cuts to government spending – without being honest that someone must pay. Here’s the secret: there is no free stuff.

It is hard to wrap your head around $22 trillion. Senator James Lankford, R-Okla., describes it like this: “If you take 22 trillion miles, total distance, you would fly from Earth to Pluto and back 3,081 times.”

The $22 trillion we owe investors and foreign governments is an existential threat to our country’s future. We must slow growth in spending and bring both sides together to reform entitlements.

The Washington Post put it in more personal terms: this level of outstanding public debt represents about a quarter of a million dollars for a family of four – more than twice the median household wealth.

This doesn’t include the $100 trillion now being proposed by Democrats running for president. Many on the left are rallying behind policies and ideologies that promise to redistribute wealth behind well-intended proposals that would disrupt the free market economy that’s made the United States the land of opportunity and its people the richest in the world.

We are not too big to fail nor can money be printed without consequences. If Treasury debt holders grow concerned about whether our government can or will repay them, interest rates on future borrowing will rise. This will lead to more federal debt, even higher interest rates on private debt indexed to federal obligations, and fewer funds available for important social programs that serve our citizens.

According to the most recent monthly Treasury Department statement, the deficit grew 39 percent in the first five months of fiscal 2019 compared with the same period one year before.

The total deficit for the five-month period was $544 billion, up from $391 billion for the same period one year earlier.

If the White House and Congress don’t reach an agreement on a new spending package by Sept. 30, we will be heading for another government shutdown. The fact is, if we continue our current structure for funding social programs we will send our debt into a spiral.

We must renew our commitment to lean, efficient governments, and remind the American people the best stimulus of innovation and growth is a robust, diverse, free market – not socialism.

This does not mean the government should abandon its responsibility to increase the well-being of its citizens. On the contrary, fiscal responsibility is about preserving access to life, liberty and happiness through responsible, well-designed political and fiscal policies.

We need leaders who are honest about the difficult choices we need to make. The $22 trillion we owe investors and foreign governments is an existential threat to our country’s future. We must slow growth in spending and bring both sides together to reform entitlements.

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As a principle, the wealthy should get less and pay more, while we protect benefits for the middle- and working-class. This won’t be easy but we’ve taken the easy road before and it’s led us here.

We must restore the values of honesty, civility, and results to Washington. To do less is to abandon our children and grandchildren to an uncertain fate. Our country is on the clock.