Our nation's elected leaders need to "begin planning now" to control the federal budget deficit, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told members of the House Budget Committee Wednesday. After Bernanke issued his warning, members of Congress went back to "planning now" - to increase, not reduce, the deficit.
During the administration of former President George W. Bush, the nation's debt was allowed by the White House and Congress to expand dramatically. But more debt is to come.
The dollar amount of our national debt - $11.4 trillion as of Wednesday - is not as significant as the ratio of debt to gross domestic production, which is the total amount of goods and services produced by our economy each year. The higher the debt in relation to the GDP, the worse off our economy will be in the future.
Bernanke told lawmakers that the debt stood at about 40 percent of GDP last year. By 2011 - in just two years - it is expected to hit 70 percent. Another analysis, by the Congressional Budget Office, is that the debt will be 82 percent of GDP by 2019.
Yet President Barack Obama and Congress continue to make plans to add trillions of dollars to the national debt. Despite warnings such as Bernanke's, neither the White House nor congressional leaders have suggested steps to reduce spending.
As Bernanke advised, increasing debt is a vicious cycle. The more debt we have, the more it costs the government to borrow money and the more debt we build up.
Leaders of both the Republican and Democratic parties have contributed to the problem. Bernanke is right: They all need to begin addressing it - now.