Clearly, many Americans - and their elected representatives in Congress - need a wake-up call regarding the national debt and our persistence in adding to it. One of the most effective warnings we have heard during recent years came Monday, during a discussion of our nation's spending problems in Charleston.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., brought two experts on the subject to West Virginia for a "summit" attended by about 400 people. The two are Republican Alan Simpson, formerly a senator from Wyoming, and Democrat Erskine Bowles, who served as White House chief of staff under former President Bill Clinton.
Here's how Bowles put the depth of the debt crisis: "America has a treaty with Taiwan that we'll protect them if China invades. There's just one problem: We'll have to borrow from China to do it. It's crazy."
Indeed it is. What Bowles meant was this: China is the single largest creditor involved in the U.S. national debt of $16 trillion. Beijing holds nearly $1.2 trillion in U.S. debt.
About $1 trillion of what our government spends each year is borrowed money. A major war would have to be funded entirely with new debt.
In a way, then, Bowles is right. To fight China, the U.S. would have to borrow money from ... China.
Good Lord. Not just our economy but also our national security are jeopardized by deficit spending. That ought to scare the dickens out of thoughtful Americans.