Opinion: Time to Face Economic Reality

The first step to recovery, they say, is accepting that you have a problem. In that case, it’s welcome news to hear more and more politicians talking about the problems being brought on by our runaway spending.

But just as an addict who claims to be on the road to recovery bears watching, the real test comes after they’ve admitted there’s a problem.

Of course, some are still in denial about our over-spending. Indeed, they’ll even claim we’re not spending enough! This is a particularly common cry from politicians and special interest groups that claim to represent the disenfranchised and the marginalized.

According to this lobby, we should ignore the reality that our runaway spending has brought on a mountain of debt, irresponsibly placing us on a path to going bankrupt. We are to fight against any real cuts, no matter how sensible and necessary.

Here are the official government numbers. According to the Department of the Treasury, our current total public debt is more than $14 trillion. Our public debt represents the sum of how much we currently owe to other financial institutions and foreign countries. To give you a sense of what $14 trillion looks like, imagine filling the entire Estadio Azteca in Mexico City (with a capacity of 104,000) with $100 bills from the bottom to the brim.

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This staggering debt is a burden to every single American. It’s also a sobering reminder that we are spending beyond our means. And yet, powerful voices are asking us to ignore the perilous reality and fight to increase federal spending at every turn. This hysteria was evident in Congress’ recent battle over last year’s budget spending bill when politicians calling for necessary spending cuts were labeled heartless and cruel.

The irony of the recent debate is that it was dealing with only a fraction of our entire federal budget, and it pales in comparison to what’s necessary to get our financial house in order. The truth is that the federal government will need to exercise even more financial restraint if we are to ensure that our economy can get out of this recession and remain competitive in the global market.

And in case we’re tempted to think that raising the taxes on the wealthy is the answer, think again. According to Curtis Dubay, a Heritage Foundation expert in tax policy, income tax rates would need to double to cover the 2010 deficit. That means that for a family of four making under $68,000, their taxes would need to virtually double from 15 percent to 37 percent. In short, raising taxes will not get us out of this mess.

What does this mean for the Hispanic community? Hispanics are particularly appreciative of the enduring economic competitiveness of our country. For many of us, economic opportunity was the very reason why we immigrated here in the first place.

As such, we have a responsibility to ensure that our children and grandchildren can live in a country that is prosperous and competitive. If we are to remain the beacon of hope for liberty and prosperity around the world, we cannot turn a blind eye to the deteriorating economic reality that endangers the American Dream.

If we are to ensure that our government can continue providing for our national defense and other important priorities, we must be willing to make some sacrifices so we can climb out of this recession and put ourselves back on a path of personal responsibility and prosperity.

No one said that the road to recovery would be easy, but it must be done for our own good.

Israel Ortega is the Editor of Heritage Libertad-www.libertad.org-the Spanish page of The Heritage Foundation, a think tank in Washington, D.C. www.heritage.org. Follow him on twitter at @IzzyOrtega