U.S. Debt: Here Today, Gone to Borrow

U.S. Debt: Here Today, Gone to Borrow

September 12, 2017

"Alexander Hamilton started the Treasury Department with nothing," Will Rogers joked, "and sometimes I think that's the closest we've been to breaking even." Not too many people were laughing on Friday afternoon, though, when the U.S. had the dubious distinction of crossing the $20 trillion debt mark. And while the government has maxed out its credit cards consistently for years, it's never owed anywhere near this much. Still, that doesn't seem to faze Democrats, who jumped at the chance to put off dealing with a mess created, in large part, by their party's last president.

Despite all the finger-wagging from the Left, George W. Bush's share -- $4 trillion -- seems like a drop in the IOU bucket compared to the money Barack Obama was spending. In eight years, Donald Trump's predecessor had Americans swimming in red ink, thanks to back-breakers like Obamacare. Before taxpayers knew it, they were staring down another $9 trillion in debt -- upping each family's share to $152,000. Obama just shrugged, blowing a bigger hole in our credit than any White House in history. By the time the moving vans pulled up to Pennsylvania Avenue, America's was overdrawn by $19.9 trillion. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and other Republicans could only shake their heads, pointing out that Obama left office having never offered a single budget that balanced.

But in fairness, Congress is as much to blame for this mess as Obama. It was a Republican House, after all, that agreed to suspend the debt limit until 2017, giving the government a blank check to borrow whatever it wanted! Add that to the millions in taxpayer-funded fish art, talking urinal cakes, IRS popcorn machines, and the waste will have you crying more than the Vidalia onion promotion campaign. Now, days after rushing a short-term debt deal out the door, some Republicans are frustrated they didn't tackle the spending crisis when they had the chance.

"We got a three-month increase in the debt ceiling, and we did not do anything to address the underlying problem, which is namely a $20 trillion debt," Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) complained. "So, some of the options we put forward, we will raise the debt ceiling. We understand that needs to happen. But we will do it if we actually address the underlying problem, cap spending in the future, do some other things, things that need to happen to deal with this huge debt burden that we currently have." Leading up to December 8, when America bumps its head against the borrowing ceiling, there will be plenty of conversations about the meaningful reform that needs to take place. "...[W]e need to do something," Jordan argued. "I would hate to give up the opportunity that a debt ceiling presents to actually go after the underlying and big concern we have."

Some Americans will yawn at the country's predicament, which isn't surprising given their own lax attitudes toward spending. According to the latest report, a lot of people are deep in debt themselves -- racking up $1 trillion collectively on their credit cards for the first time since 2008. Living within our means seems to be an ideal long lost in this age of excess and instant gratification. But as everyone eventually learns, borrowing is ultimately unsustainable -- and it is immoral for us to leave it to our children and grandchildren to pay Washington's piper.

Conservatives like Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (R-N.C.) know the time for serious action is now. After leaders from both parties let the opportunity for change slip by, Walker says his team will force the issue in the next batch of negotiations -- whether Democrats cooperate or not. "Before Congress agrees to increase the debt limit again, it is imperative we pass new laws that will change this disturbing trend instead of ignoring the root cause of our nation's debt problems," he said. Walker's right. It's time for Republicans to take charge – and not the plastic kind!

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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