Looking back at the state, national debt

By Jack Puterbaugh
Contributing Writer

Currently there is a lot of chatter regarding fiscal matters at both the state and federal levels.

In fact, at the moment, state government has been idled, and dire forecasts have been made if the national debt limit is not soon raised.

At the national level, trillions of dollars are at stake, and billions of dollars are involved in the discussions at the state level.

I recall a discussion that my father and Ernie Kluck, a neighbor, were having in front of Tony Olson’s Welding Shop, on Main Street in Isanti, back in the summer of 1936. It was a warm summer day, and they were discussing the size of the dational debt.

At the time, the debt was somewhere near $40 billion. Ernie Kluck was concerned that if the debt got much larger, the country would be in real trouble. Ernie would be “wild” if he knew debt today is in the trillions. Today, $40 billion is almost “chump change.” At the state level, back in 1954, it was my privilege to drive Orville Freeman, who was the DFL candidate for governor that year. I recall in his campaign appearance he would mention that the cost of state government was $1 million a day. That amounts to some $350 million a year.

Today in the discussions on the state budget, there appears to be shortfall of some $5 billion. Over the years, the average citizen has had to learn to comprehend dollar figures that seem only imaginary. It is easier to know what is meant when you hear, “brother can you spare a dime.”

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