There’s an obvious answer to a headline on The Washington Post that says, “How U.S. federal debt got so big.”
Well, duh: Despite what anyone says or thinks, both Democrats and Republicans have willingly kept adding to it.
There’s no other way that the debt owed by the government could have come close to doubling in just 10 years, from $15.2 trillion in December 2011 to $28.9 trillion this month, thanks to a $2.5 trillion increase in the debt ceiling negotiated this week. Soon the debt will be almost five times larger today than it was 20 years ago.
Republicans understandably wanted nothing to do with the latest debt ceiling increase. All it does is give President Biden and fellow Democrats in Congress the green light to borrow and spend that much more money.
But Republicans are just as culpable in the country’s descent into debt. The federal debt doubled from $5.8 trillion in 2001 to $11.9 trillion in 2009, rising steadily each year when George W. Bush was president as the cost of two wars ramped up government spending.
Barack Obama nearly doubled the debt during his eight years as well, from $11.9 trillion to $19.9 trillion when he left office in January 2017. He began as the country was beset by the Great Recession, and though the recovery was slow but steady, that did not stop the imbalance of tax revenue to government spending.
Donald Trump only had four years in office compared to Bush’s and Obama’s eight, but he proved just as adept at running up the credit card bill. The government added nearly $8 trillion to its debt by the time Trump left office earlier this year — a 40% increase.
It would be easy to blame the massive covid-19 assistance to businesses and individuals for this binge, but like Bush and Obama, Trump’s government didn’t need a crisis to overspend. It added more than $3 trillion to the debt before the virus hit America and nearly $5 trillion afterward. Trump regularly touted his tax cuts, but really, what did that get the country except more borrowed money?
Now comes President Biden. If all his relief proposals get through Congress, he could turn out to be the biggest spender of all. If Republicans take back one or both houses of Congress next year, maybe Biden and lawmakers will be unable to agree on more borrowing.
Most of today’s Republicans are critical and dismissive of Democratic proposals like the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better bill that would keep the government debt on its rapid rise. This is where some people get cynical about the topic.
Republicans obviously supported, or tolerated, borrowing more money when they were in the majority. It’s only when Democrats are in charge that they proclaim that it’s up to the other party to handle this problem, as Rep. Mike Guest, R-Miss., did this week.
Neither party has the will to say, “enough.” Can you blame them? The debt isn’t a big deal to voters, so the borrowing madness continues.
— Jack Ryan, McComb Enterprise-Journal