South Florida Professor Explains $16 Trillion Debt

"I'm not sure we can continue to get away with it," professor says of national debt

By Gilma Avalos
|  Wednesday, Sep 5, 2012  |  Updated 7:07 AM EDT
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South Florida Professor Talks About National Debt

South Florida Professor Talks About National Debt

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$16,000,000,000,000. That is the number that would appear on the United State's theoretical credit card statement.

Although the analogy is often made, our country's debt is not similar to our personal debt, according to Jose Gabilondo, an associate professor of law at Florida International University.

"I can't borrow indefinitely, you can't, but the government can. In a way, it's not the number that matters," said Gabilondo. "What matters is can you make your monthly payment? And are your creditors still lending to you? The answer for our country, is yes."

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Yes, for now. The fear for the country is if investors start doubting we can pay our debt, they can stop lending us money. Interest rates increase.

"I'm not sure we can continue to get away with it," Gabilondo said.

For the average American, the impacts are also felt when it comes to our quality of life.

"If we had less debt, we could take our net income and do something more productive with it, like build bridges, invest in schools," Gabilondo adds.

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The debt, all $16 trillion of it, has been at the forefront of the presidential campaign. A national debt clock constantly ticked away during the Republican National Convention.

It was a not so veiled jab at President Barack Obama. Both parties continue to disagree on how to reign in that debt. No matter what side of the issue you're on, it comes down to two basic solutions.
 
"One way to fix it it is through raising taxes. The other way is through cutting spending, which is extremely unpopular," Gabilondo said.

Just like our household budgets though, tough choices will have to be made in order to start shaving off some of those zeros.

"Politicians are paid to make the difficult decisions and if they don't, they pay the price for it," said Gabilondo.

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