No one talks much about the national debt anymore. Maybe we should. The federal debt and deficit are exploding.
One reason it’s hard to discuss our country’s debt problem is because the numbers are so mind-boggling. It’s hard for the average person to process numbers in the billions let alone trillions. It’s easy to ignore something that’s hard to comprehend.
To understand our country’s debt problem, you should know the debt is an accumulation of federal budget deficits. Each new program or tax cut adds to the debt.
When our government spends more than it receives in revenues, we have a budget deficit. Do this year after year and the national debt soars. That’s a simplified explanation on how we got where we are. But it’s also reality.
It’s the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) job to keep track of our country’s debt and deficit — whether in billions or trillions. The CBO and the numbers they produce are non-partisan. The latest debt and deficit numbers they produced are also sobering.
The national debt stands at over $21 trillion. The CBO predicts it will reach $33 trillion in 2028.
This fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, the budget deficit is expected to reach $793 billion, up from $665 billion last fiscal year. The CBO projects the deficit will hit $1.3 trillion by 2022 due to the impact of last year’s tax cuts coupled with rising costs for Social Security and Medicare as more baby boomers reach retirement age, according to The Associated Press.
Billions morph into trillions. It’s hard to fathom, so we ignore the problem. We put it out of our minds.
Economists provide some essential context. For instance, America’s debt is the largest sovereign debt in the world for a single country. It runs neck and neck with that of the European Union, an economic union of 28 countries.
Our total debt is now approaching what America produces in a whole year. In 1988, the debt was only half of America’s economic output.
The debt and deficit trend lines should be setting off alarms. They certainly did during the Obama administration when debt soared as a consequence of the Great Recession. At the time, Republicans howled with concern. They were obligated to protest. The GOP is, after all, the party of fiscal responsibility.
In 2012, when the debt stood at a paltry $15 trillion, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan predicted that the “red tidal wave of debt” would trigger the “most predictable economic crisis we have ever had in this country” and would cause the “end of the American dream.”
The same year, Donald Trump tweeted that the national debt and yearly budget deficits are a national security risk of the highest order. Yet under his administration, the debt and deficit have steadily increased — surpassing Obama’s administration.
Where is the outrage now? The reality is the debt and annual budget deficit are no longer a priority. Cutting taxes and dramatically increasing spending on both military and non-military programs are a priority. Cutting spending, which is a critical element to curb this problem, isn’t the priority it should be right now.
Sadly, neither is fiscal responsibility, which is indefensible with a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican in the White House. No one talks much about the national debt anymore. Maybe we should. The federal debt and deficit are exploding.