With 14 Senate Republicans joining Democrats to allow Tuesday’s vote to raise the debt ceiling, Congress yet again missed a golden opportunity to stop the fiscal train wreck it’s speeding us toward.
Lawmakers pat themselves on the back for averting a crisis — Treasury Security Janet Yellen warned the nation could hit the fiscal limit Dec. 15 — but this short-term fix ignores America’s unhealthy debt addiction. It’s the kind that overstretches and destroys superpowers.
We borrow like there’s no tomorrow, and President Joe Biden wants to add trillions more to the trillions he’s already unleashed this year, through his Build Back Broke spending plan. On Friday, the Congressional Budget Office released its latest numbers on this big-government bill.
Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, asked the CBO to provide a projection excluding the budgetary gimmicks the left uses to hide the true price tag of the bill. CBO’s analysis confirms it would cost $4.9 trillion over 10 years and add $3 trillion in deficit spending.
Build Back Broke would also add $266 billion in interest on that debt. Adding on this interest to topline costs brings the total to an eye-popping $5.1 trillion.
The first recovery step in Alcoholics Anonymous is to admit you’ve got a problem. American Debtoholics: Our country is at a 126 percent debt-to-GDP ratio. That means we have far more debt than the size of our entire annual economic output.
For historical comparison, this is far higher than in 1960 (52 percent), 1980 (35 percent) and 2000 (55 percent). And like a reckless shopaholic locked in toxic credit-card payments, US taxpayers are mired in astronomical interest payments.
This year, Uncle Sam spent $300 billion on interest payments on the national debt. The Committee For A Responsible Federal Budget notes that this is almost 9 percent of all federal revenue and more than $2,400 per household — in one year alone.
The federal government spends more on interest payments than on science, space, technology, transportation and education combined.
The United States has a very highly rated bond profile, so we’re unlikely to default on our bonds. But with more and more debt, our very high rating will erode over time through downgrades, which would spike our borrowing costs right in the thick of heavy inflation. It also makes us look like a weak, fading empire as China’s wealth has now overtaken ours and continues to rise.
We’re not yet anywhere close to junk-bond status, but the Obama administration presided over America’s only AAA downgrade by S&P Global Ratings. Now it seems Biden wants a redux of his Obama days: If he keeps pushing for more debt, we will likely face another downgrade, not only another from S&P but also a first from Fitch and Moody’s Investors Service (my former employer).
Another huge problem with what’s happening in Washington this week is that the debt ceiling’s purpose is to ensure that Treasury doesn’t overstep its lane. Congress created the debt ceiling for a reason — to stop Treasury from going outside its executive-branch limits and borrowing too much money.
Yet prominent Democrats are pushing to eliminate the debt ceiling altogether. Speaker Nancy Pelosi called a House bill that would give the Treasury secretary the authority to raise the debt limit an “excellent idea.” Yellen — no surprise — supports eliminating the limit altogether.
Congress controls the purse strings under the Constitution’s separation of powers. Removing the debt ceiling would give more power to the executive branch — which might be what King Biden wants.
Americans told Harvard University and HarrisX pollsters in May that they believe “massive government spending” is the top driver of inflation. Second was “significant” injections of money by the Federal Reserve, and third, “uncontrollable government deficits.”
Biden’s team is bullheadedly pushing all three ailments on us and our future. The least we can do is call our own members of Congress and tell them to block this wasteful Build Back Broke socialist scheme.
Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema seem to get it. They’re calling for America to stop its long-term debt addiction — instead of just giving another immediate payment to our debt pushers. These senators need all the help they can get.