Despite periodic political attention (such as from Ross Perot in 1992 and the Tea Party more recently), our national debt has continued to skyrocket, rising more over the past dozen years (2010–2022) than across the previous two centuries (1789–2010).
The primary culprit is so-called “mandatory,” or autopilot, spending. Such spending dwarfs all other spending and makes it effectively impossible to balance the budget simply by cutting discretionary spending (the type of spending that involves Congress actually deciding how much funding a program will get).
The choice is clear: Reform “mandatory” spending or go ever-deeper into debt. Already, rampant deficit spending has contributed to inflation has wasted trillions of dollars of Americans’ hard-earned money on debt interest payments. Absent responsible statesmanship, the bill will eventually come due in a fuller sense. When describing government actions that lead to “misery” and “suffering,” Thomas Jefferson said that “the fore horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.”
In recent years, deficit spending and debt have increased to a staggering degree.
- The national debt—which reached $4 trillion as Ross Perot ran for president 30 years ago mainly on that
issue—has now eclipsed $30 trillion (through fiscal year 2022).
- If the national debt were to keep rising at the same rate over the next 60 years as it did over the past 30 years, it would increase more than 50-fold (from now) and surpass $1.5 quadrillion (a quadrillion, which sounds like a made-up number, is a thousand trillions).
- With the all-time deficit record sitting at $1.4 trillion, the federal government obliterated that record in 2020 by spending $3.1 trillion that it didn’t have—as for every $10 in tax revenue that came in, $19 in spending went out.
- In 2020 alone, the federal government racked up more deficit spending than it had during the first 36 years of the postwar era combined (1947 through 1982), and that’s even after adjusting for inflation.
- The federal government spent more than $6.5 trillion in 2020, breaking the all-time spending mark by more than $2 trillion—and then promptly set a new spending record in 2021, spending $6.8 trillion.