ELIOT – Maine people “get it” much better than the politicians in Washington.

At dozens of town hall meetings across the 1st District, from Eliot to Windsor, Mainers are voicing their growing frustration over the national debt because they instinctively know that the government is spending and borrowing far beyond its means.

Voters are appalled that politicians casually ignore the fiscal catastrophe they are creating — and keep spending more.

Maine people know they could not possibly run their household budgets or their businesses by borrowing 44 cents of every dollar they spend, but this is the new standard in Washington.

Ordinary citizens are right to question the new regulations and spending requirements placed on them — buried in 10,000 pages of laws passed by this Congress. But while families struggle to pay their own bills, the Washington politicians have put off writing the next federal budget until after November’s elections.

The expanding national debt, currently more than $13 trillion, only represents the on-paper amount owed to U.S. bondholders here and around the world. The off-the-books debt is many times larger and grows even faster.

This “unfunded liability” includes obligations to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, government employee pensions and health care and guarantees on “toxic” bank assets and mortgages held by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. That adds up to another $65 trillion that the government does not have.

The politicians’ short-term answer is to borrow more to pay the interest due. The sanitized term is “refinancing the debt,” but it unfortunately resembles taking out new credit cards to pay off old, maxed-out cards. Mainers are smart enough to know this doesn’t work!

When people gather around my “Debt Truck,” with graphs illustrating the growing debt, they express their frustration and anger that Congress not only refuses to address the national debt — they are adding to it more quickly than ever before.

The obvious question is, “What do we do about it?”

First, we must admit there is a problem. The government’s annual revenue is $2.2 trillion and we’re spending $3.5 trillion a year. That’s a problem. When our total debt is more than $75 trillion and our income is $2.2 trillion, we have to admit that huge changes are due. (That’s as unstable as earning $22,000 a year and owing $750,000!)

We can learn from others’ mistakes, too. When socialist democracies in Europe are going broke, and pressuring America to control our government spending because our debts threaten the world currency markets — we should realize we’re heading in the wrong direction.

Next, we need to recognize that the House of Representatives is in charge of the budget and taxes and has done a very poor job. Politicians portray rational budgeting as “mean” or “negative,” but the truth is, they refuse to face the truth.

The federal government spends too much on too many things. The waste and abuse is legendary. We have too many federal employees now, and Congress adds more by the tens of thousands.

Government employees’ unions pressure the politicians they help elect to approve high salaries, automatic raises, rich benefits and fixed pensions that are more generous than the ones the taxpayers get from their private employers.

Government purchases, subsidies and tax breaks to people, companies and entire industries consume trillions of dollars for questionable benefit to the American people at large.

The too-common answer for this mess is a shoulder-shrug and a lame, “It’s always been this way.”

Changing this will not be easy, but Maine people know that taking the same path will not work anymore. Decades of passing the buck until some future election has got to stop.

The time has come to face the fact that we are spending our grandchildren’s future earnings for short-term gains and the re-election of politicians today.

Now that the national debt has reached a point that it threatens the future of the nation, is it any wonder that Maine voters are particularly feisty this time around?

Talk to your neighbors — they understand the situation much better than the out-of-touch politicians in Washington do.