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Paying down the national debt: What it means to you

By Staff
For 40 years, debt was racked up as far as the eye could see with deficit spending running out of control. The good news is that Congress has paid down $625 billion of the national debt since 1998. Even better news is that paying down $625 billion in debt is only the beginning.
To stay on the track of fiscal responsibility, President Bush's budget proposal pays down $2 trillion more in debt over the next 10 years.
Real money'
In 1998, Congress paid down $51 billion in public debt. In 1999, we paid down another $89 billion. Then, in 2000, we paid down $223 billion. During this fiscal year we will pay down $262 billion more in debt. This is real money $625 billion in total so far to pay off our nation's bills.
To most families, paying down your credit cards before you make a major purchase is just common sense. But to the federal government, this practice
is a new one. Prior to 1998, debt reduction was not a major issue on the agenda of Congress. Many in Congress did not see it as a priority for our country. Now, we are moving forward on paying off the debt because it has real meaning to every American.
Many people ask: What does paying down the national debt mean to me? This is a very reasonable question. One reason paying down the debt helps people is that it brings better interest rates for all Americans.
Just think how much more purchasing power you would have if college and university loans were at a lower interest rate. The same goes for a mortgage for a house or financing a family car.
Proposal
Under the President's budget proposal, every cent of the $2.6 trillion Social Security surplus will be locked away. The President adds $153 billion over the next 10 years for Medicare modernization and prescription drug benefits.
Education funding will increase by $4.6 billion, showing once again that education should be a top budget priority.
And to ensure a better quality of life for our men and women in uniform while modernizing the military, the President increases spending for national defense by $14.2 billion.
After paying down $2 trillion in debt over the next 10 years, the federal government's debt would decline to 7 percent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) the lowest in more than 80 years.
Right road
Clearly, we are on the road to success. In fact, the last few years have produced not only balanced budgets, but budget surpluses.
The work is far from over. We must fight the proposals to spend the budget surplus on wasteful programs that would eliminate the positive track we have been on with respect to paying off the debt.
Thankfully, President Bush has made it clear that the federal government's growth rate should be no larger than 4 percent per year. We can certainly continue to fund important priorities under this rate of increase.
President Bush has also pledged to veto bills that contain out-of-control spending measures that would hinder our goal of debt relief and fiscal discipline.
The American family knows how to balance its checkbook. The federal government is finally coming around to that sensible way of planning.
Things are looking up for the way business is conducted in Washington, and all Americans will benefit from these prudent decisions to restore fiscal sanity and pay off our bills.
U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., represents Mississippi's 3rd Congressional District. Write to him at 427 Cannon Building, Washington, D.C. 20515, or call (202) 225-5031.

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