I want you to read this number and count all the zeros: $33,000,000,000,000.
It’s $33 thousand billion. And that’s what our gross national debt exceeded on Friday. President Joe Biden may want you to believe that he has “reduced the deficit,” but that is clearly far from the truth. The calculation doesn’t work.
Less than a year ago, I wrote a column marking the moment the country hit the $31 trillion mark. It seemed like a big deal at the time.
But in June we hit $32 trillion. A few months later, the United States accumulated a trillion more debts.
It’s astonishing. And it is dangerous for the future of our country. Higher debt overshadows spending on other priorities, drives up interest rates and hurts the economy.
The debt is what should dominate budget discussions in Congress, with less than two weeks to go to avoid some sort of government shutdown.
Ditch the Republican Drama and Talk About the Elephant in the Room
Much attention has been paid to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his unruly band of Republicans – many of the “troublemakers” are part of the House Freedom Caucus.
It appears McCarthy is going to resort to a short-term solution, a continuing resolution, to fund the federal government through October and buy more time.
Even if he were to win the measure with a slim majority of Republicans in the House, the measure is unlikely to be warmly received by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
What’s most frustrating is that the bickering among Republicans – and the looming fight with Democrats – will likely do almost nothing to resolve the government’s monstrous amount of debt. This will require hard work, such as addressing looming deficits in Social Security and health care programs.
This is the only thing that should be on the minds of legislators, conservative and liberal.
Maya MacGuineas, chair of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, warned of the consequences of this unsustainable level of debt.
“The United States has reached a new milestone that no one will be proud of: our gross national debt has just exceeded $33 trillion,” MacGuineas said in a statement Monday. “Instead of hearing about solutions, we hear promises about programs our leaders don’t want to touch and taxes they don’t want to raise. This kind of talk is not only flattering, but it’s also downright irresponsible when we have such a mess on our hands.”
“Bidenomics” in action:Democratic Overspending and Growing Debt Lead to U.S. Credit Deterioration
In the last fiscal year alone, the deficit roughly doubled to about $2 trillion — far more than was expected once pandemic-related spending eased.
Rather than returning to pre-COVID-19 levels, the deficit has continued to grow at a rapid pace, thanks in part to reckless legislation passed by Democrats (the Inflation Reduction Act of the year last one ring a bell?).
Conclusion: we are spending too much.
A stop to “save our country”?
If all this drama sounds familiar, it’s because a similar fight over spending took place this spring between House Republicans and Biden. They ultimately reached a compromise in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which raised the debt ceiling so the government could pay its bills while slightly reducing spending.
Yet in the end, little changed and spending remained too high, leading to a credit rating downgrade – only the second in the country’s history.
GOP Scores Early Debt Ceiling Victory:Biden has vowed not to negotiate. And then he did it.
Our elected politicians don’t seem at all committed to addressing the underlying causes of our debt. Senate Democrats, for example, have a lot of “pork” in their spending proposals, with millions of dollars earmarked for projects that might get them a few votes but that taxpayers can’t afford. Republicans like to talk tough on spending, but they are also responsible for our situation.
In an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday, former President Donald Trump said Republicans should wait for a “fair deal.”
“We have to save our country,” he said, wrongly putting the debt at $35 trillion. “I would shut down the government if they can’t come to a proper deal, absolutely.”
He is right, we must save our country. I doubt this can be saved by political showmanship – even by a shutdown – because our national debt is not what is driving the Republican Party’s infighting. And Democrats have no desire to stop spending.
There is growing support for a bipartisan budget commission that could address the nation’s debt problems, including programs like Social Security and Medicare, which are at risk of insolvency in the near future.
Republicans should push for as many cuts as possible this time. But it will take a much bigger effort than this budget fight to reduce our national debt.
I have doubts whether any of our politicians will have the courage to do this. Either way, we shouldn’t let them continue to ignore it.
Ingrid Jacques is a columnist at USA TODAY. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on X, formerly Twitter: @Ingrid_Jacques