We’ll save you the math — that debt is more than $80,000 for every person in the United States.
With the pandemic, the number is growing quickly, and it is growing out of necessity. Congress has spent trillions to keep the economy from collapsing and to keep people employed. No complaints about that; it’s better than opening soup kitchens and bread lines for masses of out-of-work Americans.
Someday, however, when the pandemic has subsided and the economy has recovered, we’ll need to pay back those trillions. No, really; we’ll need to pay it back. Well, maybe not us, but our children and grandchildren. And if you don’t believe it, consider this: Interest on the national debt already consumes about 9 percent of the annual federal budget, or roughly $400 billion.
Now, getting voters to care about the national debt is like trying to pique their interest in the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow. That is understandable; but when it comes to a congressional representative, it seems these things should matter. They are, after all, spending your money.
So I asked Herrera Beutler how we eventually will pay for all this. “In the long run … the next step and why it’s so important to protect small businesses through this, is they’re the ones who are going to lead us into a recovery.”
And 225 words later I asked again. “Our economy has to move again.”
And once that happens?
“Before the pandemic, our economy was bumping around between 3 1/2 to 4 percent (growth). We were at record-low unemployment, and tax receipts were coming in at record numbers.”
Which points out the canard that is modern Republican policy. Because according to the World Bank, the U.S. economy grew 2.3 percent last year. And while tax receipts for Fiscal Year 2019 were at record levels, according to the Tax Policy Center, they were at their lowest percentage of GDP since 2012. All of this despite huge corporate tax cuts that were supposed to grow the economy and instead have done nothing but increase the debt and save Jeff Bezos a bunch of money.
All of this is secondary to the more immediate concerns of a public health crisis and a shuttered economy and racial injustice. But eventually we will be able to look past present crises and think about the future of the country. And we just might realize that it is a good idea to be concerned with the wonkish details of economic policy.