The federal government is ending 2019 with a national debt of over $17 trillion for the first time in U.S. history – and if one includes intragovernmental debt, such as that held by the Social Security trust funds, this figure rises to $23 trillion. Beginning in 2020, the government is projected to add more than $1 trillion to the debt every year in perpetuity. Amid this rising tide of red ink, is anyone willing to fight for fiscal responsibility?
Certainly not President Donald Trump. Since taking office three years ago, Trump earned his crown as the self-proclaimed king of debt by signing into law a $2 trillion tax cut and shattering spending caps created under President Obama. Congressional Republicans – the same folks who demanded these caps be imposed in the first place – had no qualms about charging these costs to the national credit card. After eight years of lambasting deficits under President Obama, most Republican deficit hawks have revealed themselves to be nothing more than peacocks.
Thankfully, there is some leadership on the other side of the aisle. When Democrats retook control of the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year, Speaker Nancy Pelosi reinstated pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) rules requiring legislation that cuts taxes or increases automatic spending to be fully offset. Although not all of her caucus supports PAYGO, the moderate House Blue Dog Coalition – which spearheaded the push to bring back the rule after it was repealed by Republicans in 2011 – has rebuffed efforts to waive PAYGO, sending a clear signal that at least some Democrats oppose digging the nation’s fiscal hole deeper.