Although there are many issues on our minds as Election Day approaches, the economy should be our main focus. Many Americans are unaware of—or do not fully comprehend—the size of the national debt, which currently stands at roughly $13.6 trillion, according to government estimates. To write that amount out in full: $13,676,109,536,322.

The citizenry is only just beginning to wake up to this huge debt that will have to be paid off. Debt does not simply disappear, and it is astounding that we have gotten this far into the hole without a massive uproar. It would also be foolish to assume that we can remain the world's preeminent power while incurring the largest debt as well.

As the national debt swells beyond our economic growth, it will continue to outpace our ability to pay it off. A 2009 government estimate put our GDP at approximately $14.14 trillion—seeing how close the debt is in value to GDP, it is not implausible that such a scenario could occur.

The national debt is the greatest security threat that the United States faces. The debt threatens to collapse our economy, and with it our global power. As students, we have our whole lives ahead of us and it is shameful that we will be the generation saddled with paying off this massive debt. Unless you would like to spend your entire life paying for the mistakes of current and past politicians, you should vote out any representative who has supported irresponsible spending on November 2.

However, some people believe that such concerns are unfounded or exaggerated. Yet there are plenty of historical examples of nations that fell into civil disorder or collapsed partly due to accumulated debt. Although nothing on such a dramatic scale may occur, an expanding debt is exceedingly dangerous. Contemporary examples include Greece, whose national debt shook the European Union.

The world economy is centered in New York and much of the developed western world is badly in debt—two things that do not bode well for the future. France is currently in the midst of nationwide strikes and riots regarding plans to increase the pension age. The French public seems to not understand that unless they cut something, France will not have a strong enough economy to provide benefits at all. The United Kingdom also just announced an austerity plan to try to avert disaster. The United States, on the other hand, has yet to start a serious plan.

As a nation, Americans need to understand what is at stake and that the necessary measures will be very painful. This goes for people of all political stripes. We need to remove all representatives who passed legislation enlarging the debt, whether they are liberal or conservative, or serve at the federal or state level. A recent New York Times article estimated the state debt of New York to be $200 billion in promised health benefits to retirees. Many other states have pension funds in danger of running out. Citizens have become too spoiled by their benefits and entitlements, many of which the government does not know how to pay for.

The current administration does not bear all of the blame, as some of the national debt was accumulated under the Bush administration. However, Congress drafted—and Obama signed—legislation that has increased the debt by roughly $5.4 trillion, excluding the bailouts. Depending on what school of economic thought one adheres to, such spending might be justified. Yet the fact remains that the government has no idea how it is going to get the money, and more importantly, pay it off.

We have been financing our debt by borrowing from other nations—such as China—and selling government bonds. This is simply unsustainable. There are many issues that need to be addressed, but they require money and a strong economy, both of which are threatened by escalating debt. We must get our financial house in order before we focus on other issues. Alleviating the debt must take priority.

The debt poses a danger to our global influence and military power. With troops stationed all over the world and numerous treaty commitments to defend others, we are badly overstretched. The debt limits our capabilities.

Overextension has long been a factor in the decline of many former great powers. If our economy is damaged enough, it may very well hasten our relative decline compared to new powers like China. Some believe this is not a bad thing and that it doesn't matter if we remain the greatest military power. However, most would agree it's wiser to trust ourselves—a democracy—with such power and responsibility, instead of an authoritarian China. Yet while we're borrowing and spending, China is building its military. Although this does not signal war or an end to the power of the United States, it is connected. The debt limits our military and foreign aid capabilities, which are essential to ensuring our survival and freedom.

No American can afford to ignore the fact that the debt is the greatest threat to the United States. It drains our economy, hampers our defenses and threatens the American Dream. There is one question that we should all be asking ourselves on November 2: "Who will bail the United States out?"

John Dale Grover is a member of the Class of 2014.