As our national debt just reached a new high, I am amazed at how important, vital issues sink below the threshold of news reporting. There hasn’t been significant media attention on this since the debt ceiling was not raised but suspended through March of 2017.

The most significant threat to our future by far is our fiscal report card, and we are failing miserably. Our fiscal irresponsibility endangers the future of our children and the generations to come. In 2012, the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, declared the national debt the greatest threat to our national security. The debt then was $15 trillion. Today? $19.4 trillion.

So where is the public outcry? Where is the pressure on our elected officials to draft and pass a balanced budget with a long-term plan to reduce the national debt instead of having it balloon to $27 trillion by 2026? Or for the Congress to deliberate and pass a bipartisan balanced budget instead of relying on tools such as sequestration which indiscriminately reduces spending without a plan? Yet our deficits, while lessening, continue, and our debt continues to tick upwards.

The majority of our population I know believe as JFK did, to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” And I see proof of it every day in America. I see it in grizzled old veterans who proudly wear their service ball caps to fairs and parades, in the 1.3 million people serving on active duty in the military today, in the 850,000 reserve and guard personnel who volunteer to mobilize at a moment’s notice, leaving jobs and families to go in harm’s way. Not to mention the businesses who support those reservists as they go forward. It is also in nonprofit organizations who support noble causes in our communities, in the teachers who work hard for modest pay to try and produce responsible citizens who will be our future.

I believe our nation is exceptional. But being exceptional requires extraordinary sacrifice. Being exceptional means you have global responsibilities to defend the freedom of navigation on the high seas, to combat injustice, to not allow evil to triumph. This comes at a cost. Some say, “but our defense spending exceeds that of the next seven nations combined.” But what other nation has the global capability to address the threats of today? Only one.

And threats abound worldwide: Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, where over 35 percent of the world’s seaborne oil trade traffic transits; Islamic extremists who have no belief in freedom or human rights and commit heinous acts of violence at the places of their choosing; and Russian expansionism in Eastern Europe, which could trigger NATO defense actions.

Combatting these threats require a strong national defense. We are a nation at war, a war being fought by less than 1 percent of the population. A war mandated by the commander-in-chief, the Congress and the American people. To ignore these threats jeopardizes the well-being of our future generations.

I believe our citizens are ready to assume the sacrifice required to ensure the posterity. Ready to accept the impacts related to finding efficiencies in our bloated federal government. We must reform the big entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, VA, unemployment, food stamps, federal pensions — which are 57 percent of our nation’s 2016 proposed budget. And we must ensure our allies pay their fair share for common defense. Simply put, spending less than we take in each year in taxes.

The folks content with our debt will tell you we can always print more money and a $19 trillion debt is not a problem. Don’t believe it. Just the interest on the money we have borrowed is currently 6 percent of our annual budget, projected to rise to 14 percent by 2030. These interest payments will only consume a greater portion of our budget when rates begin to rise from the record low interest rates we are experiencing today. Progress has been made to reduce the deficit (the amount we overspend) in recent years, however, it is projected to increase as entitlement spending increases with our aging population.

While this is a national issue, don’t think it won’t impact the state budget. In 2015, Maine ranked the 10th in the nation most dependent on federal funding when compared to total state revenues. If the federal government reduces expenditures, reductions in aid and grants to states will most likely be impacted.

It is time to live within our means and make hard choices. As constituents we need to remain focused on this issue even if the media doesn’t give it the coverage it deserves. Insist your elected officials be held accountable to balance the budget.

Bryan Cutchen, of West Gardiner, is the Republican candidate for state Senate District 14, which represents Chelsea, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Manchester, Monmouth, Pittston, Randolph, Readfield, West Gardiner and Winthrop.

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