The debt bomb: A bold plan to stop Washington from bankrupting America, Senator Tom Coburn with John Hart, Thomas Nelson [Press], 2012


 A slew of books have been written about the fiscal problem in recent years, and this one makes the usual points about the need to cut spending, overhaul entitlement programs, and simplify the tax law, before it is too late.  We liked the chapter one scenario for a hypothetical crisis in 2014; it illustrates how rapidly the situation could deteriorate if lenders lost faith in the US government’s intention to pay its debts.


As a prominent US senator who expects to complete his second term in 2014 and then retire from public life, Tom Coburn speaks with authority about why the nation’s political leaders have not addressed the highly predictable crisis that is bearing down on us.  He says most politicians are focused on staying in power rather than solving the nation’s problems, for which reason they habitually duck issues that involve political controversy (notably cutting specific spending programs) until after the next election or whatever.  A number of examples are cited involving politicians on both sides of the aisle. 


Some say the problem in Washington these days is “gridlock,” which prevents politicians from getting things done.  Coburn strongly (and we think convincingly) rebuts this idea (page 110):  “Over the past several decades . . . Congress has been an assembly line of new programs and a favor factory for special interests.  Our economy is on the brink of collapse not because politicians can’t agree, but because they have agreed for decades.  For years, a bipartisan supermajority in both parties has agreed to borrow and spend far beyond our means.” 


Although offering approaches for all of the major policy issues, The Debt Bomb suggests many ideas are worth considering.  The important point that the players drop their partisan poses (liberals insist entitlement programs are sacrosanct; conservatives think all they need to do is sign a pledge not to raise taxes) and start discussing what actually needs to be done.  After everyone has had their say, let the best solutions win. 


How will the story come out? Things must change because the fiscal house of cards will collapse if they don’t.  If current leaders are unwilling to face the issues, then the voters – less than 10% of whom believe Congress is performing well according to recent polls – will elect replacements who are. 


Let’s hope Senator Coburn is right!


SEE ALSO: Video (4 minutes) in which the author summarizes his message.