Exploding National Debt Is Just the Will of the People at This Point


Senators board buses heading to a private meeting at the White House on North Korea outside Capitol Building in Washington, April 26, 2017. (Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times)

A caveat on the headline, there are times when real spending cuts happen in state and local government. We can have a debate about whether or not it happens enough.

But when it comes to the federal budget? I’m not sure there is anything approach a consensus on any sort of meaningful spending reductions.

Don’t take my word for it. Consider this polling, commissioned by The Hill, which couldn’t find any spending cuts a majority of Republicans – yes, Republicans, allegedly the party of fiscal conservatives – want to cut.

The whole article is worth your time to read, but this chart sums up the whole depressing thing (click for a larger view):

Yes, this is just one poll, and all the usual caveats about margins of errors and polling samples apply.

Still, remember that these numbers are just for Republicans. Even if you could eke out a majority among Republicans for cuts in one area of the budget, you’d still have to get some Democrats to go along for the ride. Which seems unlikely given that they are, historically, even less disposed to budget reductions than Republicans are.

Meanwhile, the national debt through June 11 stands at $22.025 trillion. We’re adding hundreds of billions of dollars of new debt every year, with no indication that there’s a faction out there with the political muscle to do anything more than maybe slow things down for a little while.

A lot of you will react to this by blaming the politicians. And lobbyists. And “the swamp.” But why should the people we elect enact spending reforms when there’s no evidence the public wants spending reforms?

Massive budget deficits, and a burgeoning national debt, seem to be the will of the people. And probably will be until some ugly turn of events forces reforms on us.