The debt of the United States has no end in sight
The national debt of the United States has always been an ever-present concern. Today, it is an issue because the United States is reaching its borrowing limit, a reality that must be avoided if the country wishes to continue with its current spending. The issue has become partisan, as Republicans claim reckless spending is responsible, and Democrats claim continued spending on government services is essential.
Debt ceilings. National borrowing. Default. Discussions of this kind can be a bit dry and confusing, but when the consequences of the actions taken are so immense, it’s important to pay attention. So, what is the problem?
The United States, unhappy simply spending equal to or less than the amount of money that comes in via taxation, takes on debt to fund government services. Essentially, it borrows money because revenues aren’t high enough to foot the bill.
This is a long-established practice, and almost every country in the world borrows in this way. The U.S. has placed a ceiling on how much money they’re allowed to borrow, and they are coming dangerously close to that limit. As of right now, this limit will be reached in early December if no action is taken. Political partisanship is slowing down this process.
The combative nature of Congress comes as a surprise. Yes, they’re all politicians and being combative is part of the job description. But I know as well as the next person that the limit is going to be raised, and so does every member of Congress for that matter.
If the United States chooses to not raise the debt limit (they will, but humour me), they will not have the money to pay for obligations, including the servicing of their debt. Just as if you or I borrowed money from a bank, the United States also has to pay interest on their loans. The global economic collapse that would occur if these loans were not serviced is reason enough to increase the debt ceiling. Government services would also cease to function, and the social safety net of the United States would go the way of the dodo.
Does anyone really believe that the members of Congress are so entrenched in their ideological positions that they would not raise the debt limit to avoid this calamity, even if there are a myriad of problems with U.S. spending? Politicians understand that this is a political game, and if they can make gains while waiting for the inevitable raising of the debt ceiling, that’s an advantageous way to do politics.
No party can really escape scorn on this issue. Democrats are definitely to blame for high government spending, and the increase in the national debt under President Barack Obama was unprecedented. But former Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Trump all ran some of the largest deficits ever seen. The three Republicans only escaped taking every place in the top-three budget deficits due to President Obama’s spending. Neither party has a leg to stand on.
The Democrats are currently being attacked because of President Biden’s new, very expensive, budget. Healthy opposition is essential to democracy, but it all seems like point-scoring when we know a resolution raising the debt ceiling will be passed. Republicans should focus on what they feel counts as reckless spending in the new budget, not feigning outrage towards the debt. It’s difficult to take the party seriously when the debt is only an issue when the guy they don’t like is in charge.
I have no doubt that the issue of national debt will be kicked down the road, again and again, as it has been in the past, until a breaking point. Nobody really cares that national debt in the U.S. exceeds the country’s GDP. The political costs of tackling the problem come with no advantages.
Since the assumption of state’s debts in 1790 on the guidance of Alexander Hamilton, national debt has been a political battleground in the United States. But the debt is not the blessing Hamilton claimed it could be. It is now a nightmare with no end in sight.