COEUR d'ALENE - After a look inside how the United States borrows money, U.S. Sen. Jim Risch describes it as a Ponzi scheme.
One that could put the country in a financial crisis, either months or years from now.
"This can't go on," Risch said Thursday, in Coeur d'Alene as part of his tour of North Idaho, speaking about the nation's debt.
The senator was shown the ins and outs earlier this year on how the country borrows money through the Bureau of Public Debt through the U.S. Department of Treasury.
In a nutshell, the bureau borrows money needed to operate the federal government.
The country borrows $4 to $5 billion a day just to meet its daily bills for the new debt that day, plus $40 billion a day for outstanding debts coming due that day.
Those totals are borrowed every day, on top of the $14 trillion national debt.
And there's no paper trail. Transfers are done electronically, without a paper certificate or bond.
"There's no money," the senator said. "It's a Ponzi scheme."
A quarter of the loans come from the Chinese, a quarter from other countries, and a quarter from private investors.
"What happens," Risch asked, "when people stop loaning us money?"
Getting the country's debt in line is a top priority for the senator. A passionate speaker on the topic, he admits he's an outlier in Washington circles with his concern, although he supports Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey's proposed budget that cuts funding for departments across the board.
Defense, education, research, you name it, funding there should be cut to balance the budget, Risch said, and a Congress that fully grasps the problem is needed.
Cuts will hurt, he said, but are necessary.
"I'm telling you, there's going to come a day, and everyone will be affected."
The look into day-to-day operation of the Bureau of Public Debt was hard to absorb. It left him angry and a little sad. He's speaking about it to pass the message of the big numbers some people might have a difficult time comprehending.
"It didn't hit me there. It took time for this to set in. What I realized was this country is no longer the master of its own destiny."