Focus Point - The Debt

Commentary by Pete du Pont

I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis. Earlier this year, Bill Clinton announced the National Debt had been reduced by $360 billion over three years, and $223 billion over the last year alone. But according to the Bureau of the Public Debt, the total debt at the end of FY 2000 was up about $261 billion over three years.

So who's right?

As economics writer Scott Burns explains it, the problem is the Government's impenetrable accounting system. Until recently, the social security surplus was traded for special U.S. notes -- the infamous IOUs -- and the money was used for God knows what government spending. Lately though, some of it's been used to redeem Federal Bonds held by investors.

So, over the last three fiscal years, debt held by the public has declined $385 billion. But the Government's internal debt -- various trust funds, including social security -- has actually increased about $645 billion.

So it's not a question of the debt going down. It isn't. It's just who the Government owes it to.

Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont. Next time, Thanksgiving.