Monday, January 5, 2009

The Scary Side of Our National Debt Explained By Black Finance Expert Boyce Watkins

Dr. Boyce Watkins

Brought to you by The Great Black Speakers Bureau - The #1 Speakers Bureau in the world.

Hey Peeps,

I thought you guys might want to hear Barack Obama's latest pitch as he works to solve one of the greatest economic crises since The Great Depression. It is here if you'd like to take a look. I agree with the President that bold moves by our government are necessary. Where we differ is that I do not believe it to be reasonable to think that our economy, stock market, economic growth or employment numbers are going to reach prior levels any time soon. That's because much of our economy one year ago was an illusion....a mirage created by easy access to credit sparked by a poorly regulated financial system. We are effectively the great athlete trying to compete after his steroids have been taken away: The athlete might be good, but his natural talent will likely never match his performance when it has been enhanced by doping.

More importantly, it is critical that each of us seriously considers the long-term financial damage that has been done to our economy. Even worse than our financial system, our political system is one that promotes the kind of short-sighted behavior that will surely cause serious financial problems for our children and grand children. I apologize for sounding like an alarmist, but I must be blunt: Get your money together RIGHT NOW, or there may be hell to pay in the long-term. The data from my research show that this is simply the beginning of very serious long-term financial problems in our great nation.

Our money advice email list is here, feel free to join. If there is a way that my training in Finance can help you or your family overcome financial challenges, I'd be happy to share what I know.

Be well,
Dr Boyce


The Scary Side of Our National Debt
By Dr. Boyce Watkins

As a finance professor, I become nervous when listening to the numbers being tossed around by our federal government. I hear “700 billion for this and 800 billion for that” mentioned as casually as a man tossing dollar bills at a strip club. Our government officials have been wasteful, incompetent and incredibly myopic in the way they’ve managed our money. Even conservative Republicans are spending like financially illiterate rap stars, and the Obama-mania train doesn’t seem interested in taking a different track.

Added to the $400 - $700 Billion that President Elect Obama wishes to spend on a stimulus package (not to mention bail-outs for automakers and other parts of the economy), the total amount of money our government has seriously considered allocating to solve the financial crisis has approached the $2 Trillion dollar mark. In case you’re wondering, that is A LOT of money, even for government officials who think that money grows on trees.

The truth is that, like the star quarterback who thinks his money will never run out, our country is going to wake up one morning, only to realize that we are no longer financially secure. We are going to be alarmed by the prospect that our government securities are no longer considered risk-free investments. Like the worried mother who notices she is one paycheck away from being homeless, we will see that we are one terrorist attack away from being stripped of our vast economic power.

To put the $2 Trillion dollar problem into context, consider this:

- Our government’s annual income (IRS receipts coming from money you and I pay in taxes) is about $2.5 Trillion dollars.
- Our national debt has reached the $10 Trillion dollar mark. That is like a man earning $250,000 per year, and sitting on a million dollars in debt, with full intention of obtaining more debt because he believes he is too rich to go broke.
- Roughly 42% of the Federal budget goes toward entitlements: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Another 20% goes to making sure we can arbitrarily “liberate” other countries who happen to have plenty of oil (the military), and another 9 – 10% goes toward paying the interest on the national debt.
- Our population is aging – this implies that our productivity as a nation is going to drop over the next 30 years, and our real Gross National Product is likely to drop with it. In conjunction with our decline in productivity, our obligations for the "Big Government 3" (Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security) are going to grow. So, the guy I mentioned above with a million dollars in debt is also going to see his income decline, while watching his expenses go up.

Translation: our country is in serious financial trouble. Trickle down economics (as proposed by these bailout plans) almost never works. I am amazed that we live in a country in which the same irresponsible men who caused the crisis are the first to be rewarded with a government bailout. The next time someone attempts to argue that Black males or young single mothers lack personal responsibility, I am going to point to the bankers on Wall Street and our government officials as being far more damaging to our nation. The real welfare recipients live on Wall Street, Capitol Hill and in executive suites, as they beg and plead for government assistance that is being granted at will. All the while, I hear politicians (even the great Black man in the White House) tell Black males with nearly 50% unemployment that they just “need to be more responsible”.

What are the solutions to this problem? There really are no quick solutions, but this might be where President Elect Obama can start:

First, stop declaring expensive wars that don’t make any sense. The Iraq War costs our nation roughly $340 million dollars per day and a combined total of half a trillion dollars. That’s enough to send over 10 million kids to college or to pay a year’s worth of health insurance for 100 million people. You could also provide $100,000 dollars worth of mortgage relief to 5 million American families.

Second, stop electing incompetent people to the most challenging office in the land. Choosing President Bush to run our country means that we deserve whatever consequences come from allowing arrogant Ivy League privilege to override the importance of competence, intelligence and solid leadership. With all the bogus and racist claims that Black youth are crippled by anti-intellectualism, it’s funny that nearly 50% of our nation planned to elect a Vice President who doesn’t know that Africa is a continent.

Third, stop throwing our children’s futures into the garbage. Millions of powerful minds are being wasted each year by a horrible inner city educational system. The money spent on the war in Iraq could have saved the lives of these youth and turned them into productive Americans. Instead, many of them are only going to be prepared to milk the economy for more costly entitlements.

Fourth, stop incarcerating many of our most productive citizens. We pay roughly $23,000 per year to incarcerate criminals, plus an average of $24,000 per year/per inmate for community corrections officers and other supervisory officials. Spending that money to educate and rehabilitate these individuals would not only increase our nation’s productivity, it would further reduce reliance on government support given to those who’ve been marginalized or had their families destroyed by our barbaric system of incarceration. This doesn’t count the impact on health effects that would come by simply stopping the prevalence of prison rape and transmission of disease within many communities across America. All chickens eventually come home to roost, even when they’ve been given 25 to life. The incarceration of productive Americans is an inter-generational loss, since their ill-nurtured children then become society’s worst nightmares.

Finally, our elected officials must stop thinking that they have a blank check. Sorry Senators, but you don’t. Money is finite, and when you keep piling up debt like MC Hammer, you’ll find yourself broke after your next album. Around the world, massive wealth appears and disappears in a flash, and by continuing our irresponsibility, we are setting the stage for the twilight of our great nation. Our officials must be more responsible and the American people must demand limitations on the use of federal debt.

Every great empire has a sunset. Many successful individuals and entities are brought down by a crippling vice, addiction or series of poor choices. America's love of debt, arrogance in leadership and unwillingness to plan for the future may be the poisons it has picked to undermine our global prominence. Protect yourself and your family, for there are bumpy times ahead.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University. He does regular commentary in national media, including CNN, ESPN, BET and CBS Sports. For more information, please visit


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