Deficit Spending a Serious Threat

Prophet Statesmen, 1962, Ezra Taft Benson

In the past quarter century, there has been a tremendous shift from individual to governmental responsibility in many phases of economic and social life. There has been a rapid shift of responsibility from the states to the federal government.

In the last thirty years state and local government taxes have increased 550% while the federal government taxes have increased 3,275%. Thirty years ago all taxes, federal, state, local, took 14% of our national income. Today taxes take over 33%. In twenty-eight years the national debt has swollen to nearly $300 billion, an average in excess of $7,000 for each family. Today interest on the national debt is near $10 billion a year, eight times as great as the entire federal indebtedness back in 1915 . . . .

If this trend continues, the states may be left hollow shells, operating primarily as the field districts of federal departments and depending upon the federal treasury for their support . . . .

With the loss of gold and a weakened competitive position for world markets, this deficit spending—the major cause of inflation—is a serious threat which if it is not stopped could give atheistic communism victory without firing a single shot . . . .

According to Maurice Stans, prominent west coast banker and columnist and President Eisenhower’s budget director, experience shows that “no nation—not even the strongest in the world—can continue to pile up huge deficits without risking inflation, a loss of integrity in its money, an international collapse of confidence in that nation’s soundness, and worse.” The end of such a course is national bankruptcy.

Stans further states that “in addition to direct debt the government has piled up huge unfounded liabilities and commitments for future spending that total more than the debt itself.” Two years ago, as budget director, he compiled a list of these obligations maturing in the future, mostly for past services, and it came to about $450 billion. Added to the current debt at close to $300 billion, our total commitments now reach the almost incredible total of $750 billion, or three- quarters of a trillion dollars. And even this stratospheric amount doesn’t include another $250 or $300 billion we need to collect in future tax increases to make good on our present promises under the social security system.

Again I quote from Stans:

In the thirty fiscal years since 1931, the federal budget has shown a surplus only six times, while we went in the red twenty-four times. And the national debt grew and grew, even in years of peace.

Government costs are booming because not enough people have been willing to say “no” to government. On the other hand, spending pressure groups of all kinds have been steadily and successfully entreating Congress to provide a wide assortment of aids and handouts.

The public has been offered more public services than it needs, and has accepted them without reckoning the costs.


Source: Ezra Taft Benson, Brigham Young University address, 28 February 1962. Ezra Taft Ben­son (1899–1994) served as thir­teenth Pres­i­dent of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and as Sec­re­tary of Agri­cul­ture for both terms of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidency.


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