Both Clinton and Trump are promising bigger government and more spending.
The national debt has become the $19 trillion gorilla in the room in American politics. It’s been growing steadily for decades thanks to Big Government politicians and an overly-trusting public. And, sadly, it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon.
In “Full Faith and Credit: The National Debt, Spending, and Bankrupting of America” by Abbeville Press, the forthcoming book from historian Alan Axelrod, the focus is turned to America’s impending debt crisis. Axelrod first takes the reader through the history of the American presidency from the Washington to Obama administrations, all through the lens of government spending, tax policies, and how the office of the president and the administrative state have evolved to give us the near-$20 trillion debt that Americans must address at some point. As an added bonus, the book even comes complete with color illustrations by cartoonist Michael Ramirez, making it much easier to read for those of us who don’t spend most of our free time reading about United States fiscal policy.
The key player in this centuries-long journey to our current state is one of unintended consequences and an unhealthy and ever-increasing desire for more government. From the executive abuse mechanisms created by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, to the attempted restructuring of the government by progressives like both Roosevelts and Woodrow Wilson, to the massive expenditures incurred during both Bush administrations, Obama’s tripling of the debt during his tenure in office, and the rampant and unconstitutional increase of the administrative state have all contributed to the crisis. And all of it was the work of the American voters continually wanting more government, and continually getting more than they ever bargained for.
This irresponsibility and waste — along with the American electorate’s erstwhile misplaced trust in the government to do more than it ever should — has led to a “cognitive dissonance” among our people when it comes to the state’s proper role. “These days, people love to tell pollsters how little they trust their government,” Axelrod writes, “Nevertheless [polling and history indicate] they trust it all to easily and far too much. The failure to question government, to get curious and to be skeptical, has allowed government not merely to grow, but to metastasize.”
With a slew of Big Government proposals from Donald Trump this week … along with Hillary Clinton’s welfare state promises, it would appear that America’s debt legacy is only set to continue on this precipitous course.
Perhaps one of the most abused phrases in our Constitution, Axelrod writes, is the mandate for the federal government “to promote the general welfare.” While this is often used to justify more and more entitlement programs, the author turns this interpretation on its ear, arguing that fiscal responsibility does far more than recklessly frittering away the public coffers.
“It is time to stop repeating the mistake of endlessly arguing over the definitive or absolute meaning of ‘general welfare.’ It is time instead to do the essential work of studying, debating, and determining a working definition of ‘general welfare’ that we as a nation can live with or prosper by,” the author writes, adding elsewhere, “Common sense alone tells us that setting fiscal policies that balance benefits against costs is essential to our nation’s general welfare.”
Without such a sober look, America is facing down a monumental debt crisis — which the author outlines with historical analysis — that will spell America’s demise if it is not addressed both adequately and soon. How are we to get away from this cliff? The short answer is that American voters have to get serious about actually limiting the size of government and paying off what we owe. Discussing a short list of fiscal policy proposals that, at least, “would be a step in the right direction,” Axelrod questions, “Who will move it that way?”
“We voters have to do the pushing and pulling,” he answers. “No politician is likely to lead us towards it.”
But alas, such a hard look, such necessary reforms now appear to be out of reach. Thanks to the current budget plans being offered by both major-party candidates, there’s no realistic way to get out of the 2016 election without more government, more waste, and more debt, it would seem.
With a slew of Big Government proposals from Donald Trump this week — as well as throughout his campaign — along with Hillary Clinton’s welfare state promises, it would appear that America’s debt legacy is only set to continue on this precipitous course.
A report from the American Action Forum released in August suggests that Hillary Clinton’s proposed spending plan so far would add $2.153 trillion (that’s $2,153,000,000,000, with zeros) onto the debt clock over the next two years. This is, of course, merely an estimation based on campaign promises and can’t factor in what other new government spending programs would add to that.
On the other hand, widely-reported analysis from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget in June projects that Donald Trump’s budget plan would add $11.5 trillion over the same period of time. This projection predates the Republican nominee’s — a self-proclaimed “king of debt” — recent campaign promises for a socialist paid maternity leave program or Medicaid expansion.
Put simply, America is incredibly deep in the hole already, and the next four-to-eight years only promise to dig us deeper into it. To compound metaphors, we are drawing ever closer to a very dangerous cliff. So long as we continue to look to government for solutions, rather than realizing that reining it in is our best one, we can only hope that we don’t fall off.