The national debt has been growing dramatically for decades. It’s so great that most Americans seem to dismiss it altogether; if we haven’t been harmed by it already, it obviously can’t hurt us, right? This sort of “head in the sand” thinking is why lawmakers refuse to tackle it. As long as the people don’t seem to care, why should they?
It’s time to care. It’s been time to care for a while but the collective ignoring of it has brought it to the level that now, in 2018, we are nearing the point of no return.
Why? Because the astronomical interest is now going to noticeably affect how the government operates. We’ve spent years pretending like the interest isn’t a big deal even though it was growing to unsustainable levels during the Clinton administration. Now, we’re seeing it reach levels that are tangible. Why? Because the cost to cover it is now great enough that other areas are going to need to be cut.
In 2017, the interest on our debt was $263 billion. That’s 6.6% of federal government spending. We’re on track to spend more on interest than Medicaid in 2020 and more on interest than defense by 2023. Let me repeat that:
By 2023, we will spend more in interest on the national debt than we spend on national defense.
Normally, we can take CBO predictions with a grain of salt because they’re usually off (see Obamacare predictions for CBO’s epic failures) but this one relies on simple math. Even in a humming economy with the best case scenarios in play, you can’t overcome interest without paying down the debt.
Neither Democrats nor Republicans have any intention of paying off the debt. This is why candidate Trump went from promising to pay off the national debt in eight years, then ten years, then paying part of it off, then finally proclaiming himself the “king of debt” – all within the period of one month on the campaign trail.
To get the national debt in line will require an ironclad commitment backed by irrevocable legislation that spans two- to four-decades. It means entitlement reform, budget limits, cutting entire agencies and possibly even departments, and commitments to rein in all forms of discretionary spending.
In other words, the only way to get the national debt to a manageable level – not even getting it to zero but somewhere much lower than it is – would require commitments by politicians that none of them are willing to make. Oh, there might be a couple of Senators and a handful of Congressmen who would embrace such measures, but even those ones won’t buck the system to the point that they’d push hard for it without a mandate by voters.
We are the only hope for the very near future. If Americans don’t care that our tax dollars are being used to pay interest on the mountainous debt that has been accumulated in recent years, let alone the debt that preceded it, then we shouldn’t expect politicians to care, either. This can has been kicked down the road for decades, but the road is coming to a very abrupt end soon. It’s beyond unsustainable. We’re on the verge of collapsing under the weight of our own mistakes.
As long as voters ignore the national debt, neither party will pay attention to it, either. We will drown in our own ignorance if we don’t act soon. In the past, they said the debt will affect our children and grandchildren. Now, the debt is starting to affect us.