Debt Debt Debt
In February, I wrote an article questioning the need for a debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was before Congress, requesting yet another raise of the near-useless limit, and nobody expected the formality to be a failure. It wasn't. Congress raised the debt ceiling (in reality, they suspended it altogether until March of 2019), and soon passed a tax bill further reducing revenues. The debt disappeared from headline after the 13 month punt, but it hasn't gone away.
In a government completely controlled by Republicans, one might assume that our leadership might attempt to maintain a facade of belt-tightening — after all, their (and previous) decisionmaking saddled every American household with almost $169,000 in obligations — but alas, no. Yes, Military spending jumped by $40 Billion in Fiscal Year 2017, but that's just a little fish. How about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which is projected to add $1.5 trillion to the debt by 2028? That masterpiece will increase the national debt by the GDP of Canada. And when it's all said and done, estimates indicate that President Trump will have increased the national debt to the tune of $5.6 trillion by the end of his first term. That's more than Obama increased the debt in 8 years while dealing with the aftermath of the worst downturn since the Great Depression.
It's an insidious process, one conveniently relegated from the front page by caged children and the indictments of Trump Campaign officials. But we've got to find room on our already crowded national plate to demand better. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the deficit will average $1.2 trillion between 2019 and 2028 should our current legislation remain intact. Why? Mostly because discretionary outlays are increasing at their fastest rate since 2010, 7%, and because the interest on our debt will increase by $53 billion and upwards every year. In other words, the President and Congress are increasing the deficit by more than the annual cost of the Departments of State, Education, Justice, and Treasury...combined.
This must become a national issue again, just as it was during the Obama Presidency. We can argue about what to spend money on, but any observer must know that overspending by $1.2 trillion a year is not sustainable. Democrats need to start talking about it, Republicans (and not just John Kasich) need to start talking about it again. And after all that talking, we need action.
We probably (definitely) can't rely on the current President to get the job done. He believes that his newly imposed tariffs are paying down the debt, but they account only for 0.625% of what he needs to kill even the deficit. We need leaders in Congress now, or in the presidential campaign of 2020, to make a commitment to start chipping away, and keep it.
It's not going to be easy—it's going to be really hard—but the mountain grows only higher every day (and second) we waste. We need intelligent solutions, big ones (see: retirement age, military reduction, government compensation rates, etc). We need a lot of courage, George H. W. Bush-raising-taxes courage. And we need realism: it's going to take decades. The public won't like it, but the American people have swallowed hardship for the greater good before. This country needs to be responsible if we wish to maintain our prosperity in the future. Contact your congressman. Debt Debt Debt.