Whatever Congress does on the current proposal to extend the Bush-era tax cuts and other spending, deficit hawks such offer a stark warning: We have to at least have a plan to cut federal spending at some point, or face nasty consequences.
Republican Senator Tom Coburn (Okla.) asked just that. "What should the American people make of this? It's kind of like we're on the titanic here in America and everybody says, 'the bar is open. We'll just have a party the next two weeks.' We're going to spend another $900 billion dollars."
In fact, some of the nation's top officials warn our debt doesn't just risk a financial crisis; it could also lead to a national security crisis.
Rear Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, notes, "I've said several times publicly the biggest threat we have to security is national debt."
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton says our debt "undermines our capacity to act in our own interest. And it does constrain us where constraint may be undesirable. And it also sends a message of weakness internationally."
And Doug Holtz Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office agrees. "The spillover to our National Security is very real. Our ability to protect ourselves and project our, our values around the globe is ultimately built around a large and strong economy."
We are especially vulnerable because the U.S. now owes more than $4 trillion abroad, and half of that is to foreign governments -- a good chunk of that to China.
Holtz Eakin notes that "if you get in a situation where you've borrowed enormous sums of money from China and you need them to help with say a North Korean problem, they may not be interested in doing that, and what can you do? You need the next loan," he says. "You need to roll over the debt."
One anti-deficit group, Citizens Against Government Waste, is running a chilling ad of a Chinese professor explaining to students in 2030 how great empires failed -- the ancient Greeks, the Roman empire, the British empire and, finally, the United States.
He explains how the U.S. just kept borrowing and borrowing money -- until it lost control of its own destiny.
The professor looks at an audience of Chinese college students and says, "Of course we owned most of their debt." Then he chuckles at the bizarre twist of fate and then says, "So now they work for us."
And the camera cuts to students laughing with him at the folly of the Americans.
That is exactly what worries lawmakers such as Coburn who says "If you look at history, no republic has survived as long as we have. They have all failed, and they've all failed for the same reason. They lost control of their fiscal policies long before they ever were conquered."
No act of aggression would be needed. Lenders such as China would only have to sit on the sidelines and insist on higher interest rates before lending us anymore money.
And since the U.S. is now borrowing about 40 cents of every dollar it spend, there won't be any choice but to pay up.