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EDITORIAL: Spendthrift nation

A trillion here, a trillion there . . . March 14, 2021 at 5:00 a.m.

In the early to mid-1980s, when a president named Reagan was spending the Soviets into history and cutting taxes at home, the debt cranks began to complain about the money the government was spending. By 1982, the country's total budget debt had gone north of a trillion dollars. Somebody do something!

No longer do we as Americans, taxpayers, commentators and regular Joes talk about billions in government spending. It's trillions now, and trillions into the horizon. Believe it or not, even during a pandemic in which a lot of the economy was closed, government revenue is actually up 5.1 percent between October and February, the height of the crisis. But spending is up 24.7 percent, to $2.48 trillion in that same time period.

Let's go over the numbers, which appeared on the AP wires this week: As of Tuesday, the national debt was $27.9 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that the deficit this fiscal year will be $2.3 trillion. That estimate does not include the $1.9 trillion covid-19/stimulus/massive spending bill just passed by Congress.

Last year's budget was wracked by covid-19, too. The one-year deficit (added to the debt) was a record $3.13 trillion. This year's looks to be more than $4 trillion.

We understand that government spending during a national, even international, crisis such as a pandemic is necessary. But printing this kind of money is not sustainable.

The AP quoted Maya MacGuineas, the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, on last week's relief package: "For all its flaws, we are hopeful this package will help end the pandemic and will restore the economy to its prior strength. At that point, we'll need a plan to tackle our high and rising national debt."

We'll need to. But will we?

As somebody told us recently, if a nation can continue to spend in this manner with no negative consequences, it will be the first time in world history.


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