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Our nation is now staring at trillion-dollar annual deficits. The Congressional Budget Office in a report this month warned the nation once again that our yearly red ink could top $1 trillion as soon as next year. Our national debt is projected to grow faster than the economy--forever.

How many warnings will it take for our leaders to pay attention? What is the tipping point that will force them to act?

During the past two years, our Congress and president ran up a massive bill, adding $2.4 trillion of new debt over the next decade. It was a bipartisan spending spree--from tax cuts to spikes in defense and non-defense domestic spending. Everyone got to throw something onto the national credit card.

Never at a time of such economic prosperity have our deficits been so high. During times of growth, our leaders should have paid down the debt and addressed our underfunded and insolvent social safety net programs. Instead, they poured debt-fueled stimulus into the economy and created a short-term sugar high at the expense of our long-term financial security.

Our leaders should hang their heads in shame for where they have led us. The deterioration is so dramatic that some public figures are testing out a once-fringe argument that debt doesn't really matter in an attempt to diminish the threat.

Ask the average American if they are happy that more than $2,000 of their tax bill this year went just to interest payments on the debt. Or that on our current path we will one day spend more on interest each year than on the military or Medicare. It will certainly matter then.

How do we respond to a crisis when our debt is larger than the entire economy? Or double the size? Or triple?

Record debt doesn't just hurt the nation's bottom line, it hurts our people. It slows income growth, crowds out other priorities, pushes up interest rates on mortgages and credit cards, and passes the buck (along with less opportunity) to the next generation.

There was a time when bipartisan compromise was a good thing that solved problems. In fact, it brought us budget surpluses once. Our leaders need to meet in the sensible center to solve this deficit problem once again.


Tim Penny served Minnesota in the House of Representatives from 1983 to 1995. David Minge served Minnesota in the House of Representatives from 1993 to 2001. Both are board members of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Editorial on 05/16/2019

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