The Bureau of the Public Debt reported that Americans made total contributions of $7.7 million in 2012 to the U.S. government to reduce debt held by the public. The same organization put the amount of public debt at $11.4 trillion. Intergovenment debt holdings are $4.8 trillion, which brings the entire total to $16.2 trillion. For some inexplicable reason, the Bureau of the Public Debt is impressed that contributions rose from $3.3 million in 2011, which shows how crazy the Treasury can be.
The Treasury would be better off to hide the data, or not report it at all, if possible. The fact that donations are in the low millions and that debt is well into the trillions demonstrates how little sacrifice Americans are willing to make by any direct contribution to a problem often described as the worst the United States has.
Although there is no direct correlation between what taxes people are willing to accept and contributions to the Bureau of the Public Debt, there is one stretch in logic worth taking. Americans mostly have protested a rise in taxes that would be created by the elimination of the Bush tax cuts. If Americans ever did have a period during which sacrifice of the national benefit existed, it is long gone.
One of the reasons Americans are not willing to be generous in their own personal bailouts of the nation is that their real wages have not risen in a decade. Is that partially the fault of the government? Perhaps, but private enterprises' drive to productivity has contributed as well, as have state and local cuts in services that are essential to earnings power - education the first among them.
Another reason Americans resist participation in debt reduction and resist high tax rates is their view that large companies have robbed the government of revenue though tricky tax dodges, though completely legal ones, and the movement of money and profits offshore. Multinationals have cut exposure. Why should individuals be left to pick up the slack?
Furthermore, the generosity of Americans probably has been dented by their views that the federal government has become less generous. Conservatives may not see the situation that way, but many others do. Many of the government programs cut in recent years have been those that give direct assistance to Americans, often those who are in difficult positions, particularly financially. A government that does not invest in its own citizens is not worth an investment by its citizens in that government.
The Bureau of the Public Debt reported a drop in the bucket at the same time that the bucket is getting larger, and Americas have opted out of directly changing the situation.
Douglas A. McIntyre
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