The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reports the American government will soon reach a debt level equaling its entire gross domestic product. It will be the largest since 1945, the year World War II ended.
The pandemic is partially responsible, but it is too easy an excuse to blame a virus for politicians of both parties to stop spending and reduce debt. The federal government continues to take in record amounts of revenue, but it goes out the Treasury’s door as fast as it comes in, riding the crest of a wave of borrowed money because very few in Washington ever speak of the harm debt causes. The sole interest of too many politicians is reelection and spending is their ticket to electoral success.
How many times have we seen what happens to elected officials who attempt to reduce the rate of increased spending, not cut spending itself? They are demonized by the opposition as being uncaring toward the poor, children, the elderly, etc. No wonder they are afraid to do anything. They put their careers ahead of the welfare of the nation.
It isn’t that we don’t have sufficient warnings and examples from the Founders to contemporary political leaders about the dangers of debt. It is that the politicians and those who elect and benefit from their largesse refuse to heed those warnings.
President Kennedy believed economic growth occurred when taxes were cut and spending reduced. Kennedy couldn’t get nominated by today’s Democratic Party. Vice President Joe Biden wants to raise taxes, including those on capital gains. Kennedy believed high taxes slowed capital formation and reduced risk-taking. Kennedy also believed lower taxes produce more revenue for the Treasury, something that has been proven time and time again. Mr. Biden seems to believe the opposite, which has been disproved time and time again. The marketwatch.com website summarizes Kennedy’s policies on taxation and spending.
To prove that debt has been a nonpartisan issue in the recent past, consider this succinct quote from Ronald Reagan: “We don’t have a trillion-dollar debt because we haven’t taxed enough; we have a trillion-dollar debt because we spend too much.” Who can credibly argue with that? It’s true in our personal lives, but unlike the government individuals can’t borrow money without end to prop up their lifestyles.
Again, Reagan cut to the heart of the spending and debt problem when he observed: “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!”
When Democrats used to care about debt, they said we were mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren. With the rapid increase in spending and promises by the Biden-Harris ticket to spend trillions more on unproved “climate change” and the rest of the Bernie Sanders socialist agenda, we might be mortgaging our present.
In a July 2019 column, I quoted several of our wise Founders whose monuments have recently been under assault by the ignorant mob. They are worth repeating.
• Thomas Jefferson said: “We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.”
• Alexander Hamilton warned: “Nothing can more affect national prosperity than a constant and systematic attention to extinguish the present debt and to avoid as much as possibl(e) the incurring of any new debt.”
• George Washington said: “Avoid occasions of expense … and avoid likewise the accumulation of debt not only by shunning occasions of expense but by vigorous exertions to discharge the debts, not throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.”
• Then there’s James Madison: “I go on the principle that a public debt is a public curse, and in a Republican Government a greater curse than any other.”
Can anyone credibly challenge these warnings? If not, why aren’t we obeying them?
• Cal Thomas, a nationally syndicated columnist, is the author of “America’s Expiration Date: The Fall of Empires, Superpowers and the United States” (HarperCollins/Zondervan, January 2020).