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D.C. pols shrug as fiscal cliff looms


The national debt is much like the weather. Everybody worries about the topic, but nobody wants to do anything about it.

These days, however, it seems that every blizzard, thunderstorm, flood, hurricane, tornado, heat wave or cold spell represents the latest onslaught of Armageddon. Perhaps the national debt should hire weather’s PR team to increase its profile.

In November, the federal government ran a deficit of $249 billion, a record for that month. Just two months into Washington’s fiscal year, the government is on pace to run a deficit of $1.9 trillion for 2022-23. That’s “the largest nonpandemic budget deficit ever,” Eric Boehm of Reason points out.

At the same time, Congress just passed a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill that is expected to add as much at $585 billion to the deficit. This comes on the heels of numerous COVID-19 relief bills that allocated trillions of dollars. The national debt now roars toward $31.5 trillion. For a bit of perspective, it totaled “only” $10.6 trillion when Barack Obama took office in 2009.

It’s true that Republican Donald Trump did little to slow the trend. But President Joe Biden’s effort to claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility is utter poppycock. In May, Biden took credit for falling deficits, but the numbers improved only as one-time pandemic outlays ended. In reality, the president’s policies have led to higher deficit projections as the decade moves forward.

In addition, the Biden economic agenda has unleashed inflation at a rate not seen in 40 years. That has led the Fed to pump up interest rates. This, in turn, makes servicing the rapidly rising national debt more expensive. That’s one reason for the rapidly advancing red ink in November. The Wall Street Journal reports, “The Treasury spent 53 percent more on borrowing costs this November than it did last November.”

All this brings to mind Stein’s Law: If something can’t go on forever, it will stop. Yet outside a few lonely voices, mostly in the Republican Party, there is no appetite in Washington for fiscal prudence. Rather then Stein’s Law, most elected officials, particularly the radical progressives now dominating Biden’s party, prefer John Maynard Keynes’ observation that “in the long run, we’re all dead.”

But when Stein’s Law kicks in, those who haven’t shuffled off this mortal coil will be left with the bill regardless of Keynes’ cynicism. As the late Charles Krauthammer wrote, you can kick the can down the road, but at some point it disappears over the cliff.

And when that happens, the weather will be the least of the country’s worries.

Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service

 



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