By Katie Wood
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby met with Dallas County constituents at the St. James Hotel Monday afternoon where he discussed America's debt
"Collectively we're the richest nation in the world, but folks, we're also the largest debtor nation in the world. It should scare you and it should scare these young people more than some of us older people, because they're going to inherit one of the biggest debts mankind has ever seen," Shelby said.
He explained that 33 years ago, in 1980 the U.S. owed $909 billion in debt.
"It took 200 years to get to there. But from 1980 to 1990 -- we had not 200 more years, but 10 years -- we added $2 trillion more to the debt," he said, pointing to a graphic chart he held up for everyone to see. "From 1990 to 2000 we added another $2.5 trillion to the debt. But from 2000 to 2010 we added $8 trillion dollars to the debt. And since 2010, in three years we've added right at $3 trillion more."
Shelby said the debt is projected to increase to $26 trillion by 2020.
"Whether you're a democrat, republican, libertarian, independent, socialist, whatever your political persuasion is, you should want a strong economic system. You should want a strong monetary system. You should not want a nation of debtors. Collectively that's where we're going," Shelby said. "Now what does that mean to all of us? It means fewer opportunities for the young people, because they're going to inherit all of our assets and all of our debts soon or later. So they're going to have, more than likely, fewer chances than we ever had."
Shelby said that the nation is spending billions and trillions more than it takes in each year, and "everybody knows -- that's had sixth grade math -- that it's financial suicide," and noted he doesn't see relief coming any time soon.
After reflecting on the fiscal state, Shelby opened the floor to questions or comments from the audience. Constituents discussed immigration laws, North Korea, opinions on President Obama, budget cuts and more, but Selma Mayor George Evans spoke up about the city of Selma.
"We are the third oldest city in the state of Alabama. We have all kinds of infrastructure, drainage and sewage problems and cave-ins," Evans said to Shelby. "Maybe you could find some way to appropriate funds for Selma and Dallas County for the purpose of infrastructure and highways. We have a tremendous, great need here."
"You're right, you do have some [tough] economic times. I've worked with the city. I've worked with the county. I've helped you where I could," Shelby responded. "Right now there are no direct appropriations; we have a moratorium on that because people abused the funds. But there are some funds dealing with cities that will always be there. And I think some of these programs are good. If you apply for them, I'll try to help you with them. I'm in a position to help you with meritorious stuff -- and water and sewer and housing is all important. But you've got to help yourself."
Mayor Evans said the city is doing what it can, but finds itself in an in-between state as it is too small to receive grants that come easy for cities with a population of 50,000 or greater, and too big to qualify for grants as a rural city.
"So you're in between," Shelby said, acknowledging the issue.
"The question I guess is, because of that, is there some legislation the government can provide, so cities like us could be entitled like Montgomery, Birmingham, Mobile," Evans asked.
"Let's just talk about the smaller cities from Maine to California -- [Selma] being one of them. You shouldn't be discriminated against because you're not [a city of] 100,000 or 500,000. That's all politics, raw politics," Shelby said. "There are hundreds of cities the size of Selma and what we need to do is make sure they're not left out."