Federal deficit impact on San Diego

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The national debt now stands at $14.3 trillion. For an easily understandable explanation of why it needs to be addressed, and soon, we asked Erik Bruvold, President of the National University Systems Institute for Policy Research.

“Imagine the federal budget is a one dollar bill,” said Bruvold. “We've got enough money to pay about sixty cents of that, and then another forty cents we'd need to borrow to meet the obligations we've got.”

Bruvold says that's a huge problem over time, and it's the reason why we've raised the debt ceiling ten times since 2001.

Unless the debt ceiling is raised again a week from (Monday), the government will have to stop borrowing money.

But a number of Republicans, and some conservative Democrats, say they won't vote to raise the ceiling unless meaningful spending cuts are part of the deal.

According to Bruvold, there's not a lot of fat, if any, to be trimmed away. That's how dire the situation has become.

“The programs that make up about seventy-five percent of the spending in San Diego are pretty popular programs. They're Medicare, Medicaid, social security, defense and veterans' affairs.”

Bruvold bases his finding on the $36 billion the government spent in San Diego in 2009, the most recent year for which such numbers are available. Forty-two percent of the $36 billion went to defense and veterans' affairs. Medicare, Medicaid and social security accounted for thirty-three percent. That's three quarters of the $36 billion.

Bruvold says if the impasse over raising the ceiling lasts into late summer, his group estimates that between $14 billion and $15 billion would have to be trimmed from what San Diego is now getting.

Even if the current crisis is addressed, Bruvold says we've reached the point that rational solutions must be found towards the budget's long term structural problem.

“The only way we're going to get this country into a structural balance is by having very difficult and adult conversations about how we restructure these programs to be more affordable.”

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