As the Debt Hits $19 Trillion, Has the US Reached a Tipping Point?

As the Debt Hits $19 Trillion, Has the US Reached a Tipping Point?

(The Fiscal Times) For several years, the growing federal debt was ignored as the economic recovery chipped away at once massive spending shortfalls of $1 trillion or more. Now, there’s an uneasy feeling among many policy makers and experts that we are beginning to slip back into risky fiscal terrain.

The last time the budget was in balance was in 2001, at the tail end of Democratic President Bill Clinton’s second term. While the government has been awash in red ink ever since, President Obama and congressional GOP leaders have rightfully crowed about a series of bipartisan deals that helped bring down the annual deficit from an astounding $1.4 trillion in 2009 – at the very worst point in the recession – to $438.4 billion just last year.

But times are changing again, and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has issued several distress calls in recent months that the deficit is headed north again. We will return to another era of big deficits, CBO warns, unless Congress and the White House step in with some meaningful spending reforms. And that, of course, means figuring out how to provide Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to a growing army of retiring baby boomers without breaking the bank.

Six years ago, The White House and Congress had a real chance of reaching a “grand bargain” of tax and spending reforms that would have put the government on a true, long-term course to another balanced budget. But as is often the case, a lack of political nerve and political foresight prevented that from happening.

Today, we are mostly treated to political doublespeak and hypocrisy about the budget and the need to address a national debt that has reached an historic $19.2 trillion. And that hypocrisy – being played out on Capitol Hill and on the presidential campaign trail – is driving budget and economic experts and average Americans to distraction.

It is hard to miss the fact that Congress is once again so politically hamstrung that House and Senate GOP leaders this week threw up their hands and abandoned efforts to pass a budget for the coming fiscal year. There […]

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