We’re all guilty. President Joe Biden is guilty. Former President Donald Trump was guilty. Both parties are guilty. I am guilty, and you are, too.
We all are guilty because we have done little to nothing while the nation’s national debt exceeds $31 trillion.
The result: The share of the nation’s IOUs is $94,270 for every man, woman, and child in America, according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.
During Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, Biden repeated his promise not to cut Social Security or Medicare spending, and he says he won’t raise taxes on workers who earn less than $400,000 annually.
Now that Republicans control the House and Biden has to negotiate across the aisle for the first time in his presidency, he wants to pin the blame on the elephant party.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy wants to leverage the debt ceiling, which has to be hiked, to negotiate spending cuts with the president. But Biden says he will not negotiate.
And McCarthy has yet to produce a list of spending cuts his conference would support.
Apparently, all of Washington believes that the lawmakers who talk fiscal common sense cannot win elections — even as the Treasury faces a deadline to raise the debt ceiling.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is a welcome exception. In an opinion piece that ran in the Washington Post Wednesday, Manchin called the situation “unnecessary brinkmanship.” Manchin offered some modest reforms, like capping the annual growth of discretionary spending at 1 percent for the next 10 years.
That reform wouldn’t solve the budget gap. To balance the budget by 2032 with cuts alone, Washington would have to cut spending by 26 percent, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
But the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget noted, “It is important to select an achievable fiscal goal rather than merely an aspirational one.”
Instead of big promises that can’t be met, start with baby steps.
Speaking in Wisconsin Wednesday, Biden tried to deflect blame for the trillions of red ink on his predecessors.
It’s true. Republicans who demand cuts from Biden in 2023 served as big-spending enablers when Trump occupied the Oval Office.
In 2019, Mick Mulvaney, then Trump’s acting chief of staff, said that he did not think the Trump administration could get the annual deficit below $1 trillion. And that was before COVID.
Biden is testing a new argument that doesn’t serve any respectful purpose. “The national debt is the total debt and interest accumulated over 220 years,” Biden said in Wisconsin.
Technically, that’s true, but the national debt was some $21.6 trillion in January 2021. It’s grown by close to $10 trillion since Biden took office.
The conservative think tank FreedomWorks responded on Twitter, “REALITY: We’ve gone from $1 trillion to $32 TRILLION over the last 35-40 years. This insanity is a recipe for national bankruptcy! The cornerstone of our republic is COMPROMISE.”
The Right is pushing for compromise, and Biden is saying he won’t negotiate to raise the debt ceiling. The only sure thing is that we won’t pay for it; our kids and grandkids will be stuck with the tab.
Debra J. Saunders is a fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership. Contact her at email@example.com.
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