CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Here's a math quiz: The U.S. government spends around $3.5 trillion per year -- but federal revenue is barely above $2 trillion. Subtract $2 trillion from $3.5 trillion and what do you get?
Right -- America sinks deeper into the hole, day after day, month after month, endlessly borrowing more money. The annual federal deficit remains above $1 trillion per year, and the accumulated national debt just passed $16 trillion.
During the Reagan-Bush era of the 1980s, federal overspending skyrocketed. But under former President Clinton in the 1990s, rising U.S. prosperity enabled Washington to break the debt cycle and grow a federal surplus. Then things went sour again under subsequent President George W. Bush, and the Great Recession worsened the hemorrhage under President Obama.
Former U.S. Comptroller David Walker, a tireless crusader for solvency, says the total federal debt actually is around $70 trillion, counting all looming liabilities. That's more than $200,000 for every American man, woman and child.
As head of the Comeback America Initiative, Walker is making a bus tour around the nation, warning groups of the debt peril. "$10 million per minute" is his theme, meaning the amount U.S. debt increases every 60 seconds.
Walker blames Republican-Democrat hostility in Washington for creating a stalemate that stymies any debt-solving compromise, such as the long-range plan drafted by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. He ridicules Republicans who signed Grover Norquist's solemn pledge never to raise taxes for any reason. And he questions Democrats who won't revise Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
If nothing changes during the next decade, Walker says, interest on the federal debt will become the largest part of the U.S. budget -- gobbling trillions without providing any direct benefit to Americans. He says debt is a worse threat than terrorism.
On Sunday, an Associated Press analysis concluded that debt-reduction plans of both President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are unrealistic and unworkable.
Frankly, we think the best cure for this nightmare is to downsize the gigantic U.S. military, which costs taxpayers $1 trillion per year, counting all extras. As we've said repeatedly, warfare is fading, so there's little need for huge armies, navies and air forces. Small commando forces and killer drones are best suited to today's terrorist menace. Other democracies don't bankrupt themselves with excess militarism.
One way or another, Washington must cease political throat-cutting and address the debt crisis.