Yes, Federal Debt Is Out of Control. But This Is Not the Time to Pinch Pennies.
Published in The Washington Post
on July 31, 2020
Senate Republicans are right to be worried about rising federal debt. But they are wrong to artificially limit the level of spending in the latest coronavirus relief package.
Make no mistake, the federal debt is spiraling out of control. It had been rising at roughly $1 trillion a year before the pandemic sent the economy into a tailspin (in part because of the 2017 tax cuts). The federal debt held by the public has risen by an unprecedented $3.4 trillion since just Jan. 1, and now stands at an astronomical $20.6 trillion. As Democrats propose adding another $4 trillion to that total in the relief bill that has passed the House, it’s no wonder that some Republicans think enough is enough.
The trouble is that people do not pinch pennies in a crisis. What they want and need is support to keep them from going under, and they expect the federal government to provide it. Herbert Hoover prioritized balancing the budget over federal spending in the depths of the Great Depression, even going so far as to veto a multibillion-dollar relief bill in the election year of 1932. He got shellacked in one of the greatest landslides in U.S. history, a political debacle that made the Democratic Party the natural majority for nearly 40 years.
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Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.