Any day now the total debt of the United States government will top $20 trillion.
That eye-catching number should prompt all of us to reflect on what the growing debt means for future generations (a lot) and whether our elected officials have a plan to deal with it (they don’t).
The most important thing to recognize about the $20 trillion debt is that its size in dollar terms is not as important as the fact that it is on an unsustainable track.
Two non-partisan agencies, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO), have concluded that unless actions are taken to cut spending, raise taxes or both, the debt will continue to grow faster than the economy.
That’s bad for future generations because it will harm long-term economic growth, greatly increase interest payments on the debt, squeeze out other government spending and make it more difficult to respond to emerging, unmet or emergency needs.
We’re placing a growing burden on future workers and investing less in the economy that will be called upon to support that burden. This generationally irresponsible pattern will continue absent major changes that alter the long-term trend lines rather than simply postpone a crisis.
The $20 trillion figure actually...