$20 Trillion: Not With a Bang But a Whimper

Last week after President Trump signed a bipartisan agreement to increase the debt ceiling for three months the United States National Debt broke $20 Trillion dollars.  So the long time bipartisan tradition of not tackling our government spending problem continues.  While many a deficit hawk would consider this milestone to be unacceptable, it seems that both political parties have reached some mutual agreement to just stop worrying about debt and deficits.  It seems all of us are taking to heart the words of the great Ronald Reagan when he joked “I’m not worried about the deficit — it’s big enough to take care of itself.”

In the midst of discussions over DACA, this or that tweet, and Hillary Clinton’s new book discussions over this new fiscal landmark seemed to fade into the background.  The roar from the battles in the culture war seemed to drown out any recognition that we are well set on our path towards a fiscal cliff.

In 2010 Tea Party candidates fought against government encroachment into the healthcare market and the national debt with sound and fury, now apparently signifying nothing.  Now we have a national debt that is higher than our Gross Domestic Product with apparently no political will to address the problem, let alone a serious plan.  According to Pew Research this fiscal year we will spend $276.2 billion on interest payments for the national debt, and as our debt load increases and interest rates rise that number starts looking worse and worse.

Republicans now control the Executive Branch, both Houses of Congress, and hold a majority on the Supreme Court, and while there has been a lot of talk about health care, immigration, and tax reform, there seems to be no consideration of reforms to our entitlement programs let alone a long term plan to reduce the deficit.  Are we truly “all Keynesians now”? It seems that every time Republicans get into power we suddenly decide that deficits don’t matter.

Last week I attended the Executive Club meeting with speaker Adam Andrzejewski from OpenTheBooks.com, a group dedicated to showcasing every single dime of government spending in a transparent manner online.  Take the time to poke around their website for a while and you’ll be amazed at some of the wasteful government projects they have found.  Spending reform is a reality that can be achieved, we just need the political will to fight for it.

Addressing America’s spending problem will not be easy and it will likely hurt in places, but that pain pales in comparison to the pain inflicted on future generations should they be saddled with an unsustainable debt load.  

While both political parties share the blame for getting us into the situation we are currently in, to their credit, at least the Democrats never actually promised to do anything about it.

Jacob Vandever is political activist, lifelong Oregonian, and proud Oregon State graduate. Jacob is the Editor of the Oregon Upstart Blog.