Amid all of the outrages of the Trump administration and Congress, the fact that the federal budget deficit has surged by 77 percent above the same period last year somehow got lost.
Issues that don't involve paying off porn stars, debasing law enforcement, conspiring with Russia, white nationalism, internet memes, border walls or Israel are apparently unable to sustain our attention.
Which is another way of saying our goose is cooked. The growing red ink in the federal government can, and will, erode the economic advantages the United States has from its entrepreneurial culture and rule of law.
Last week, the Treasury Department reported that the government borrowed $310.3 billion from Oct. 1 to Feb. 28, up from $175.7 billion in the same period a year earlier. The accumulated national debt, including the liabilities of Social Security, is now $22 trillion. That is $67,000 for every man, woman and child in this country.
On Monday, the Trump administration proposed a budget that would pile on an additional $4.8 trillion in debt over the next five years. And even these projections are based on continued robust growth. A recession, or even growth rates less than anticipated, would send the deficits higher, sooner.
The major causes are the same that responsible people have talked about for decades: unbudgeted, unappropriated and largely out of control spending on benefit programs, primarily heath care, coupled with relatively low rates of taxation. Put simply, voters want more from government than they are willing to pay for, and politicians are giving voters what they want.
OPPOSING VIEW: Tax cut law helps future generations
Now there is a new twist. Faced with the retirement of the baby boom generation, the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress responded last year with an irresponsible plan to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Largely as a result, the deficit is expected to jump to $1.1 trillion this year from $779 billion in 2018, despite a healthy economy.
The tax cuts not only made matters worse, they also have triggered a kind of arms race in irresponsibility.
For the past 30 years Democrats have been more responsible — or perhaps less irresponsible — than Republicans on budgetary matters. The last time the budget was balanced was during the administration of President Bill Clinton.
Now some Democrats have given up on trying to fight fire with water and have turned to fighting it with gasoline. In so doing they have internalized the words of former Vice President Dick Cheney, who famously said, “Deficits don’t matter.”
To justify their calls for major increases in health care, education and environmental spending, some progressives are pushing a cockamamie notion called "modern monetary theory," which holds that deficits don’t matter so long as the government is borrowing in its own currency. Call it the Democratic counterpart to the cockamamie conservative belief in "supply side economics," the notion that tax cuts will magically pay for themselves.
Many Democrats are pushing have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too spending plans that almost perfectly mirror Republicans' have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too tax cuts. It has apparently become a race for who can show the most bad faith and callous disregard for America's future economic well-being. This race will not end well.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Deficits don't matter in Donald Trump's budget