“I have had many anxieties for our commonwealth, principally occasioned by the depreciation of our money.” –Patriot and Governor of Virginia Patrick Henry
While many Americans have busily wrapped up summer activities and gotten back into the school routine, the US government quietly passed a new record, not only for itself but for any civilization in world history: A debt of $33 trillion. That’s $33,000,000,000,000. Twelve zeroes.
As one can see on usdebtclock.org, that debt grows by $1 million every 30 seconds or so.
As of September 20, that breaks down to each US citizen owing $98,455 and each US taxpayer owing $254,961 as their share of the total debt.
Like termites silently eating away at a house, the national debt and resulting inflation eat away at the value of each dollar, causing the prices of virtually every good and service to keep going up.
As reported by the St. Louis Federal Reserve, interest payments on that debt totaled nearly $970 billion for the Second Quarter of 2023. That unprecedented amount is due to a confluence of two harmful trends: both the debt and interest rate keep increasing.
Put another way, that’s $970 billion the government does not have to pay for teachers, border patrol, healthcare workers, parks, national defense, foreign aid, or anything else, because it’s all going to cover interest payments, which will keep going up due to the power of compounded interest.
From Presidents George Washington to Ronald Reagan, it took our country over 200 years to accumulate the first trillion of debt. Then during the Bush Sr., Clinton, and Bush Jr. years, the debt roughly doubled during every administration.
When President Obama took office in 2009, it was roughly $10 trillion.
When President Trump took office eight years later it has ballooned to around $20 trillion, and that was only six years ago.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the National Debt will hit $50 trillion by 2030.
As noted above, the debt has spiraled while both parties occupied the White House. Moreover, budgets are supposed to originate in Congress, and both parties have controlled Congress during the years the debt has exploded.
As reported here last May, the national debt was at $31.8 trillion.
That means, the debt increased by over $1 trillion between roughly Memorial Day and Labor Day.
The congressmen representing our region, Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA9) and Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA6), bucked their party brass and voted no to raise the debt ceiling. However, they were outvoted and the red ink continues to gush.
As reported here in June, Virginia’s US Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, obeyed their party leaders and voted to increase the debt ceiling last spring. The measure included funding for 87,000 new IRS agents.
For countless years, Congress under the leadership of both parties has failed in its responsibility to put forward an annual budget. So, there is a repeated pattern of the federal government nearly running out of money. Then, with no long-term budget or plan, panic ensues, and Congress passes a so-called “Continuing Resolution.”
According to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), “Continuing resolutions are temporary spending bills that allow federal government operations to continue when final appropriations have not been approved by Congress and the President. Without final appropriations or a continuing resolution (CR), there could be a lapse in funding that results in a government shutdown.”
Once again, the current fiscal year ends September 30 and Congress has failed to create a budget for the new year. Currently, the US House of Representatives is led by Republicans while the Senate is led by Democrats.
Against the backdrop of the $33 trillion debt, some are arguing for deep government spending cuts while others claim we should continue the status quo as if the debt is no concern.
In a September 20 tweet on X (previously known as Twitter) Sen. Warner tweeted: “Extreme House Republicans are suggesting an 8% cut across the board… that means 800 fewer Border Patrol officers, 110,000 fewer Head Start slots for kids, cuts to Pell Grants for 6.6 million students, and more. This isn’t a serious way to govern!”
On September 6 Sen. Kaine tweeted: “Government shutdowns are stupid. They hurt federal employees and all who rely on government services (like food inspections, flight safety, national parks). Today I teamed up with @RepDonBeyer to introduce a bill to prevent government shutdowns.”
In contrast, Rep. Cline tweeted: “Forcing change on Washington’s dysfunctional bureaucracy is the only way to stop the runaway deficits and prevent future generations from paying the price of even more crippling debt.”
Adding to the tension, on September 20 Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) posted on X: “Today I’m putting congressional leadership & @POTUS on notice that I will oppose any effort to hold the federal government hostage for Ukraine funding. I will not consent to expedited passage of any spending measure that provides any more US aid to Ukraine.”
Spending bills require passage in both the House and Senate and the signature of the president.