One might think a national debt of $12.8 trillion - about $42,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States - would be a self-evident call for reform. Apparently not, to judge by a report from the International Monetary Fund.
Once the current recovery picks up more steam, residents of developed countries like ours may become less concerned about deficit spending by government, the IMF warned in a report this week. "The window of opportunity for real reform ... is rapidly closing," the agency contends.
At the same time, the IMF cautioned that governments' failure to address their red ink could plunge the world back into a new recession. Higher government debt means increased interest rates for those who must borrow money. That curbs economic growth.
Government debt and recession are part of a vicicous cycle, in other words.
Our problem in the United States is bad enough, but it is dwarfed by what is happening in some European countries. As the IMF pointed out, Greece's financial collapse has forced that country to slash social programs and increase taxes at the same time. Other countries are not far behind Greece in that regard.
Instead of taking steps to curb deficit spending, our current government - and that includes both Democrats and Republicans - continues to embark on massive spending programs.
IMF leaders are right: The time to address deficit spending is now - not just because the recession has pointed out its dangers, but because it has grown even more out of control than ever in our history. A true crisis is in the offing unless action is taken soon.