Cause and effect. Words and deeds. Ideas and Consequences.
Most would readily acknowledge that for every deed or action there is a corresponding force, idea or motivator behind it. But all too often biases and subjectivity cloud the facts and the understanding of them, even when the clues are abundantly clear. This week was a case study of these truths.
On Wednesday, a 66 year old political activist picked up a rifle and handgun, with deliberate premediatated intent, and hatred in his heart, and drove to a baseball field where Republican Congressmen were preparing for the annual baseball charity benefit game. These Congressmen hailed from the party that pushes grannies over cliffs. They were men whose mission in life was to steal money from the poor and give to their rich friends. They were polluters whose chief aim was to destroy the globe they lived on. They were men who were racists, bigots, and homophobes. These men, in baseball cleats and uniforms, were the worst of the worst America has to offer, or so news reports, media, pundits, late night show hosts, Hollywood elites, millions of Americans, and particularly their Democratic colleagues across the aisle, would have you believe all these obvious lies and slander.
And so Mr. Hodgkinson, a staunch Bernie Sanders supporter, and avowed left-wing activist, following months and years of hearing his ideological leaders malign and defame Republicans and conservatives, made the horrific decision to do what seemed the logical thing to do, given the “crimes” of these Republicans. He would grab his weapons and descend upon these “vile” GOP Congressmen, becoming their judge, jury, and executioner. He would do what others could only bring themselves to verbalize, whether through innuendo, jest, theatrical drama, or outright threats. He would carry through. He would extinguish their lives, and in so doing, he would finally mete out the only justice these “immoral” Republicans were worthy of… destruction and death.
Thankfully, Hodgkinson’s murderous plan was foiled due primarily to the grace of God, and secondly to the heroic actions of the Capitol Police, who just “happened to be there” because Rep. Steve Scalise, Republican House Majority Whip, had his assigned security detail with him. Rather than a mass shooting with numbers of lives lost, there were a handful of Republicans (including Scalise) and Capitol police who were shot up, but are expected to recover. In a move of swift justice, the would be executioner met his Maker that very day, receiving the ultimate judgment reserved for unrepentant murderers.
But, is that the end of the story? Are there others, beyond Mr. Hodgkinson, who played a role in the tragic events of this week? If for every effect there is a cause; and if words drive actions; and if movement is preceded by force; and if ideas have consequences, then there is a mountain full of blame to spread behind the left-wing ideological lines, as I wrote about a couple months ago in this post.
Recent Calls for Political Assassinations
Whether it’s Kathy Griffin’s recent graphic beheading stunt of President Trump, or the Julius Caesar play in New York this week that depicted the main character, a Donald Trump look-alike, being assassinated, these are just two whose ideological DNA are at the scene of the crime. To call for or fantasize about the death of anyone, but particularly a member of an opposing party because you find him objectionable, or even reprehensible, should be intolerable and be met with the swiftest condemnation. Those participating in such despicable behavior should pay a heavy price. Tragically, when those toying with such hideous fantasies are nationally recognized, they water a soil that is already sown with seeds of hatred and thoughts of violence. To be clear, Mr. Hodgkinson was completely responsible for his actions. But before his fateful day, those calling for Trump’s assassination lent credence to such crimes and played a part in fanning into flames the embers of Hodgkinson’s hate.
The Media & Entertainment
It’s long been established that the overwhelming slant of ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, nearly every major newspaper, and the vast majority of entertainment (Hollywood elite and musicians) in our nation participate in the unholy alliance that seeks to portray those on the right side of the political spectrum as all that is wrong with America. Every kind of disparaging remark is hurled at those of us whose “guilt” is simply embracing an ideology that, while at odds with their alliance, is most in tune with the philosophy of our founders and our Constitution. If it’s any consolation for conservatives, were our founders alive today, they would undoubtedly be targets of the left’s smears, vilification and even assassination attempts by their most radical elements.
Since Trump’s election, the barrage from the left has only increased and intensified. And so Hodgkinson’s mission to “Destroy Trump & Co.” as posted on his Facebook page, was affirmed time and time again by Hillary, Obama, Pelosi, Schumer and their partners across this nation with their latest message of RESISTANCE and disruption. This article from American Thinker identifies a partial list of the threats against the GOP and Trump by Hollywood celebrities.
Purveyors of Hate
One cannot discuss this subject without highlighting the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization that speaks in unison with the agenda of the progressive left. Like a rabid animal, SPLC’s fangs can be extremely destructive and even potentially lethal. SPLC targets many of the leaders in the Republican and conservative mainstream, listing them either as “hate groups” or affiliating with the “hate groups” they singularly pronounce. So was the case with Rep. Scalise, the Republican Congressman shot this week by Mr. Hodgkinson. SPLC had asserted that Scalise had associated with groups it deemed hate groups. And it should be noted that Hodgkinson had “Liked” SPLC’s Facebook Page.
SPLC’s ties to violence were furthered portrayed when they labeled Family Research Council as a hate group several years ago. Note that FRC is a mainstream political and policy organization that affirms both conservative and biblical values. In 2012 another left-wing gunman attacked FRC, seeking to kill dozens. Thankfully the security officer at FRC was armed and neutralized the would be murderer. Later, when interviewed by the police, the gunman acknowledged that he had gone to the SPLC “hate group” website to gain info on FRC before his attack. Shamefully, while SPLC boasts that it calls out those who hate, they have become purveyors of hate and violence themselves, and share some part in the climate that led to Hodkinson attack yesterday.
Are all liberals to blame?
It’s tempting to use a broad brush when opining about political matters but to do so would be wrong. Many Americans who voted for Hillary were appalled by the Griffin stunt and other such vile deeds. But while hatred doesn’t drive all liberals, many of them are certainly influenced unduly by the biases of their deceptive sources. And so the mouthpieces of the left, too numerous to list, carry a high level of responsibility for sowing the seeds that eventually sprout into full blown violence by some against their fellow Americans, whose sole “crime” is believing differently.
At the end of the day, this whole matter reminds me of a couple of truths from God Himself. In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus stated, “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”
And in 1 John 3:15, we see that hatred is merely murder in one’s heart: “Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.”
These are weighty thoughts and should cause all of us to look inside to test our own attitudes. If hate is equal to murder, it’s no light matter.
The question many ask themselves today is whether America can be saved from herself? Is she too far gone? Is the tenor and level of our disagreement in America between the predominant political and spiritual ideologies too far split to see a patching of our nation together again? Time will tell. But if the machine of the left continues on its unrelenting agenda to vilify and slander all views contrary to theirs, then what we witnessed this week at a baseball field in our nation’s capitol, will spill over into your city and mine next.
Plant a thought and reap a word;
Plant a word and reap an action;
Plant an action and reap a habit;
Plant a habit and reap a character;
Plant a character and reap a destiny.
Tennessee Republicans, from the party that boasts it is for lower taxes, just raised taxes in the Volunteer state as they wound down this year’s legislative session. The party which enjoys a dominant super majority, controlling the House, Senate and Governorship, raised the Gas Tax on every Tennessean. Note that even if you don’t drive, the gas tax will apply to you since prices on anything delivered by trucks will most definitely increase. And those increased transportation costs will be passed on to you, the consumer. It’s as if legislators just pick-pocketed Tennessee taxpayers.
But here’s what’s even more astonishing about the haste by legislators to raise the gas tax. Tennessee enjoyed a $2 Billion surplus this last budget year. And this coming year, the state of Tennessee projects another $1 billion surplus, as well as in subsequent years.
Because a government’s primary source of receipts is through taxes and fees, a surplus suggests that citizens are being overtaxed. But rather than reduce the state’s tax rate, Governor Haslam and dozens of other Republicans chose to keep taxes at their current levels, thus continuing the state’s surplus. So not only were Republicans content with overtaxing Tennesseans, but they compounded the matter by increasing the Gas Tax as well.
I have held cordial and pleasant relationships with most of my local area Republican representatives. But being friends on a political or even social level, does not mean that one should turn a blind eye, or censor one’s comments. The fact is that when those professing to be fiscal conservatives while campaigning, violate fiscal conservatism when elected, it’s incumbent in our form of government to call these individuals to account. The full list of legislators who voted for and against the Gas Tax is here.
Sadly, every single legislator in Hamilton & Bradley County, TN voted FOR the Gas Tax. And out of the list below, only one is a Democrat:
Gerald McCormick-R, 26
Patsy Hazlewood-R, 27
JoAnne Favors-D, 28
Mike Carter-R, 29
Marc Gravitt-R, 30
Dan Howell-R, 22
Kevin Brooks-R, 24
Mike Bell-R, 9
Todd Gardenhire-R, 10
Bo Watson-R, 11
I acknowledge that many of Tennessee’s roads and bridges are in need of repair. And to be clear, those of us who opposed the gas tax are NOT against increasing the amount that our state allocates towards our road budget. Rather, our opposition has always been that the default answer by most Republicans was to raise taxes when there are multi-billion dollar surpluses that are available to fund every penny of the Governor’s proposed road budget increase.
What is inexplicable about the whole gas tax matter though, is that every initiative that was proposed that sought to avoid tax increases in favor of using surpluses to fund road repairs was met with intense opposition by the governor and Republican legislators. It was clear they would not take NO for an answer to their gas tax increase. And why they were stuck on a gas tax increase is something we may never know.
During the course of the debate over the gas tax increase, many pro-tax Tennessee Republicans were quick to embrace the following quote from Ronald Reagan:
“The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.”
But here’s the problem with “tax & spend” legislators using this quote. In every relationship there are negotiables and non-negotiables. Consider the most fundamental relationship: marriage.
If a husband picks up his clothes 80% of the time, but fails to do so every so often, he is not a traitor, deserving of a firing squad. Rather, he just needs some grace from his wife, and she will likely agree he is “a friend and an ally.”
But if that same husband is faithful to his wife 80% of the time and carouses around “just” 20% of the time, he is a 100% traitor to his wife and vows, and he shouldn’t be surprised when an attorney delivers the divorce papers.
Obviously, all matters are not equal. So when a Republican legislator professes that he/she is a fiscal conservative, then a non-negotiable should be the matter of raising taxes when there are better alternatives. Utilizing a multi-billion dollar surplus would seem to be a better alternative than raising taxes.
So don’t buy this distortion of Reagan’s quote. The very legislators who rush to Reagan for cover are the same ones who are unfaithful to the values that Reagan espoused and lived, at least in the area of raising taxes in 2017 in Tennessee.
So I wonder what’s next from these legislators? Your guess is as good as mine, but betting on the fact that they’ll stand firm against tax increases is no longer a given.
It was March 23, 2010. One of the most contentious political battles in recent American history was over. President Obama had just signed into law his signature legislation: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. House Republicans immediately introduced legislation to repeal Obamacare, and over the next six years, Republicans would introduce more than 60 different bills to repeal all or parts of Obamacare.
In 2015, the House and Senate, both under Republican control, passed HR 3762, a bill that repealed the most significant parts of Obamacare. (President Obama would veto the Repeal bill.) It’s noteworthy to highlight that support for the 2015 Repeal of Obamacare was near unanimous by Republicans with only 7 House Republicans and 2 Senate Republicans voting Nay, or against it. (239 Republican Representatives and 52 Republican Senators voted Aye, in favor.) As a side note, my Congressman Chuck Fleischmann and both of my Senators, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, all voted for the Repeal Bill.
During the three election cycles (2012, 2014, 2016) following the passage of Obamacare, Republican House and Senate candidates, challengers and incumbents alike, would nearly unanimously, and repeatedly, promise that if voters would elect, or reelect, them, they would Repeal Obamacare. And based on those promises, Republican, moderate, conservative, tea party, and independent voters entrusted their vote to these elected officials.
Then the 2016 Presidential cycle happened. While the Republican Primary was one of the most crowded field of candidates in memory, with each of them offering their own ideas and promises, there was one issue on which all the candidates agreed: Their unanimous commitment to the Repeal of Obamacare.
Following the Primary, and with the nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for Presidency, the GOP’s nominee promised to Repeal Obamacare. And the 2016 GOP Platform further reiterated the Party’s commitment to a full Repeal of Obamacare. Note this quote from the Republican Platform (page 36):
“Any honest agenda for improving healthcare must start with repeal of the dishonestly named Affordable Care Act of 2010: Obamacare. It weighs like the dead hand of the past upon American medicine. It imposed a Euro-style bureaucracy to manage its unworkable, budget-busting, conflicting provisions. It has driven up prices for all consumers. Their insurance premiums have dramatically increased while their deductibles have risen about eight times faster than wages in the last ten years… We agree with the four dissenting judges of the Supreme Court: ‘In our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety.’
“To that end, a Republican president, on the first day in office, will use legitimate waiver authority under the law to halt its advance and then, with the unanimous support of Congressional Republicans, will sign its repeal.”
Let that last sentence sink in.
Is there any question that the full Repeal of Obamacare was promised, ad infinitum, by the Party and all of its candidates?
But if there’s one thing that seems to be synonymous with politicians, it is broken promises. There is nigh a profession that has a lower credibility rating than that of a politician. I have met many politicians including local, state and federal ones. And one thing I’ve noticed about most of them is that they are fond to commit to the voter in order to gain their vote. But once they are elected, there is something that flips in the politician’s mind; something that quickly turns the page on those campaign promises, as they jet off to Washington or their state capitol. Whether it’s a character flaw in the type of individuals that are attracted to the profession of governing, or whether it’s that as they leave voters behind, they can also leave promises behind, it’s a rare instance when politicians are willing to fulfill the promises they make.
Sadly that’s what American voters once again witnessed this last week. When the Republican health care plan known as RyanCare, TrumpCare, or the American Health Care Act, was put forward, a promise was broken. And it wasn’t just one promise. The Repeal of Obamacare was promised by:
President Donald Trump,
each Republican Senator,
each Republican Representative,
Republican Speaker Paul Ryan, and
the Republican Party in its 2016 Platform.
And as already noted, nearly every Republican Representative and Senator voted in favor of the 2015 Repeal of Obamacare as well.
I once heard someone ask the question,
“How do you know when a politician is lying? Answer: When their lips are moving.”
Of course, this is a very cynical, over-generalization of an entire profession. But when the overriding theme of a political party and their nearly 300 elected officials is the Repeal Obamacare, for six long years, and when they are ultimately entrusted with the power and authority to do so, what should voters conclude when such a material promise is broken?
What is also commonplace amongst politicians is to deflect blame when they’re under pressure, rather than simply owning up when they break their promise. Once again, this week we saw the blame game, from Trump to Ryan, and from House Representatives to the Republican Party. That blame was heaped on 40 or so Representatives who, unlike Ryan, Trump and an entire party, resolved to keep the promise they made. This group, known as the Freedom Caucus, had a simple message: “Let’s keep our promise. Let’s Repeal Obamacare. Let’s simply vote as we did in 2015.”
But they became the villains. The scapegoats. And many voters are falling for Trump and the Republican Party’s blame game, forgetting that those doing the blaming are the ones breaking the promise.
The 2015 Repeal bill, supported by nearly every Republican member, was actually introduced by Freedom Caucus member Jim Jordan last month. But Ryan and Trump and a couple hundred other elected officials, effectively affirmed Obamacare and all of its destructive regulations, by refusing to honor their promise. Had they simply taken up the Repeal Bill that was passed by each of these Congressional members in 2015, Obamacare would be history, with a two year phase out period. This time frame would have been ample time to pass common sense healthcare reform.
Beyond keeping a promise, the reality is that only a full repeal of Obamacare will insure that the virus that has infected our government will be extricated from our healthcare system. Anything less will simply insure that the destructive nature of Obamacare will be allowed to remain.
So what’s next? My guess is that politicians will be politicians, and do what they do best: Promise the world but deliver a sack of IOU’s. And their credibility will sink even lower than Trump’s favorability ratings. But my hope is that for once, these men and women will honor their promise, and just do the right thing.
Our nation’s future, and your healthcare, hang in the balance.
“Let your Yea be Yea and your Nay be Nay…” (Matthew 5:37)
With the inauguration of our new President just hours away, our nation is approaching new, unchartered water. Of course, the same could be said of the era we were entering eight years ago. But just as there were troubling reasons why Obama was elected then, so there are gnawing explanations as to why Trump was elected in November.
As George W. Bush was quick to sacrifice many of the values that historically characterized conservative orthodoxy, his popularity plummeted and contributed to the election of the most “progressive” President to ever lead our nation. And with the election of Barack Obama, the political polarization that gained steam during the Bush years skyrocketed under Obama.
But as Republicans over the last eight years continued to say one thing and do another, particularly when they controlled both houses of Congress, voters grew more and more frustrated with the Party of Lincoln. Consider that while there were 17 Republican candidates for President, ultimately the 16 “Party-faithful” candidates were rejected in favor of Trump, someone whose political credentials were questioned by many. One could ask then whether the victory in November was that of a Party or a personality? And will the coming Trump era see Party, Principle or Pragmatism prevail?
As someone who has consistently voted for Republican candidates, I have always favored principle over party. So in 2009, as the tea party movement was launched, I took an active role, with millions of other Americans, in expressing my grievances with both parties. Since then, while certainly much of our movement’s protests were focused on Obama’s policies, a considerable amount of our ire was directed towards Republicans as well. The party of conservatism had, for the most part, lost its compass.
But then Trump appeared.
And everything changed…
The truth is there is little evidence that Trump is a conservative Republican, in the purest definition. Not only does his multi-decade track record affirm this reality, but many of the policies he campaigned on are at odds with long-standing Republican positions and orthodoxy. I won’t take the time to recite the myriad of examples but these articles here and here reference several of his most glaring departures.
What we do know about Trump though, is that since his Presidential announcement in June 2015, the billionaire candidate attracted: 1) Republicans disgusted with the Republican Party, even though they had consistently supported the GOP, and
2) Democrats tired of the failed policies of the Democratic Party, for which they had voted for in prior elections.
So with Trump’s rise to the Presidency we witnessed a powerful new constituency, the Pragmatic voter. No longer was Party the driving factor for many. Nor was Principle the overriding variable for others. Rather, Pragmatism ruled the day.
But with the election now over, and Trump stepping forward to lead, versus merely tweet, his words will soon morph into policies, laws and regulations. As this occurs, it will be telling to see if the millions of voters who supported Donald Trump will remain enamored, enthused and engaged.
More specifically though, I am eager to see how tea party members will respond to our new President. As a movement that has for the most part been known for its allegiance to Principle and the Constitution, will its members continue to overlook Trump’s policies that might violate both? Will the tea party devolve into simply a pragmatic political force? Or will the movement that became the rallying cry and impetus for one of the greatest political victories in the modern era, embrace the spirit of the original Tea Party in 1773, standing on principle first and foremost?
“On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.” Thomas Jefferson
As Donald Trump readies to take the oath of office next week, he will not only assume charge of the most powerful nation in the world, but he will also oversee the world’s largest economy. And Trump will be aided in his oversight of our economy by a Congress controlled by a Republican Senate and Republican House.
It’s been ten years since our nation was led by a Republican-controlled trifecta (Presidency, Senate & House). The last time this occurred George W. Bush was President. When the “conservative” Bush left office in 2009, with Republicans having controlled the Senate and House for half of Bush’s eight years in office, our 43rd President had doubled the national debt to just over $10 trillion with his deficit spending policies.
Eight years later though, as Barack Obama is leaving office, our published national debt is on the verge of surpassing $20 trillion. (I say “published” debt since our unfunded liabilities exceed $100 trillion, a topic that I discussed in my previous article, American: The Point of No Return?) If ever there was a financial house that is spinning out of control, it is ours.
Many in America are hopeful with our new President about to take office. Trump’s no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is attitude attracted tens of millions of voters to support him. His willingness to say what many were thinking no doubt won him the election. Further, Trump’s 50 year track record in business convinced many voters that he was the man to turn around our economy and create a thriving, fiscally sound America.
Donald Trump: The $10 Trillion Man?
But this last week, Senator Rand Paul took to the Senate floor to rail against his own Republican colleagues as seen in this powerful video. According to Paul, under the plan to repeal Obamacare, Republicans will likely be voting in favor of a budget that would increase the nation’s debt by another $10 trillion over the next ten years, matching Obama’s own dismal performance. This slide from Paul’s presentation illustrates the point the Senator was making.
Senator Paul began his speech with the famous lines, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” And he could not be more accurate. For all the talk of “draining the swamp” in Washington, what may stay the same, based on Republican’s track record, is the unwillingness of Republican politicians to stem the growth of our dangerous national debt. (To be fair, some are suggesting that this “shell” budget will be replaced with a second one in the not too distant future, which will bring spending down and ultimately balance our nation’s budget. But that remains to be seen and should be viewed with extreme skepticism.)
Republicans were fond of lobbing threats of government shutdowns, making incessant demands for balanced budgets and excoriating Obama and Democrats for their own deficit spending during the Obama era. And rightly so. But now that they are in the drivers seat, is it actually possible that Republicans will do no better? Will they maintain the fiscally ruinous course upon which our nation is set?
Where are the Tea Party & Fiscal Conservatives?
Eerily silent as the Republicans take control of Washington, are the groups that heretofore have been the voices of fiscal reason, and have historically led the way in demanding that our elected officials spend no more than they collect in revenues. And their silence is deafening.
The tea party movement, of which I have been an active part since its founding in 2009, all but abandoned its defense of fiscal soundness, during the general campaign in 2016. Tea Party Patriots, the nation’s preeminent coalition of tea party members and groups, and many other conservative watchdogs, said nothing about Trump’s calamitous economic plan. This despite the fact the new President’s plan could add up to $20 trillion to our nation’s debt, according to a recent study by Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Their report revealed that our nation’s federal debt would soar to $39.5 Trillion by 2026, double the current debt.
But now the day has arrived and Donald Trump and his Republican allies have been handed Washington to them on a silver plater by frustrated and angry voters. Those voters elected Trump because of their disdain for politicians who consistently promise one thing but deliver something altogether different.
A Call to Action
We’ve all been told, “it matters who governs.” But it will only be true if grassroots Americans do more than simply vote. They… or we must remain engaged. Our voices must be heard in an unprecedented, unmistakable, and unambiguous manner! Trump and our Senators and Representatives must know that they were not elected to maintain the fiscal status quo.
The Tea Party, and all fiscally conservative Americans, must, like Rand Paul, call out Republicans and Donald Trump. We must warn them that they were not elected to put the final nail in our fiscal coffin.
Trump cares not about the media, the social elite, the Hollywood snobs, or the connected wealthy, as he once again reaffirmed this week in his most recent press conference and barrage of tweets. But I do believe there is one demographic to whom Trump will listen: the grassroots, the blue collar workers, the forgotten middle class, and the traditional American, who still believe that if you work hard and play by the rules, you will be rewarded.
So it is incumbent on you and me to reach out… once again, to an elite ruling class. It is necessary for us to remind them that we sent them to Washington to repudiate the status quo by restoring fiscal responsibility; honoring the Constitution; and empowering the free market. Reestablishing these three pillars, which are the core values of the tea party movement, will enable our great ship of state to slowly but surely reset its course in the direction of real prosperity, the kind that our Founding Fathers envisioned. But as we do the work to reshape our nation, let us never forget that fiscal prosperity will only flow from men and women of decent, moral character. And we will only “Make America Great Again” if we first Make America Good Again, as I discussed in my previous article of the same title.
So will you join me in engaging with our elected officials? Will you pick up the phone and call, or fire off an email to Donald Trump, your Senators & Congressman to express your views about the upcoming budget battles? I trust you will. (Click on the highlighted links for their contact info.)
With the election of Donald Trump, roughly half of Americans are hopeful, while the other half are dejected, if not alarmed and angry. While that may be a slight overgeneralization, we can probably all agree that the campaign leading up to the Presidential election was one of the nastiest in recent history, characterized by intense personal attacks, with little attention given to the many challenges our nation is facing. One such challenge is our exploding national debt and its dire implications for you and me.
As someone who has been a fiscal conservative all of my adult life, I was sorely disappointed to see such little attention given to the financial welfare of our nation. With our nation approaching $20 trillion in current debt, it should come as no surprise to anyone that a financial storm, like none we have seen, is likely in our future. Yet, neither Trump nor Clinton spoke much of our debt. When it was mentioned, it was simply noted in passing, with no plan by either candidate to halt, much less reverse, the current course we are on.
While it’s understandable that neither candidate was interested in tackling America’s festering cancer, what is alarming is the fact that many of the organizations who have typically decry our national debit, remained silent during the campaign. As the founder of the Chattanooga Tea Party, our organization locally, along with the national tea party movement, has consistently focused on fiscal issues over the last seven years. Likewise, the Republican Party has historically been the party of fiscal responsibility, if not in action, at least in words.
Yet nationally, both the Tea Party and the Republican Party said very little about the silence of both Hillary and Trump concerning our fiscal nightmare.
With reference to our national debt though, the old adage, ignorance is bliss, does not apply. In fact, choosing to ignore what is certain to cause calamitous events in the not too distant future, is akin to knowing one has cancer, yet discussion of the illness is avoided, hoping it will somehow go away.
So just how bad is our fiscal cancer?
Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, the following three charts illustrate the magnitude of our $19.5 trillion debt. To be certain the terms are understood, deficits are the annual differences between what our government takes in versus what it pays out, or spends. The gross debt is the cumulative sum of those annual deficits.
Chart #1: The Gross Public Debt from 1980 – 2016
Chart #2: The Federal Deficit from 1980 – 2016
Chart #3: Trillion Dollar Deficits Return by 2024
As the charts depict, for decades our nation has been spending well beyond its means. In fact, during the last two Presidential administrations, the US incurred an approximate $15 trillion of new debt, with nearly two-thirds of that amount being added during the Obama era.
According to an article at Visual Capitalist, our national debt is:
Larger than the 500 largest public companies in America.
Larger than all the assets managed by the world’s top seven money managers.
25x larger that all the global oil exports in 2015.
155x larger than all the gold mined globally in a year.
Larger than the sum of the world’s physical currency, gold, silver, and bitcoin combined.
But as troubling as this should be to any American, the future looks even worse according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections, as presented by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. CRFB is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization committed to educating the public on issues with significant fiscal policy impact.
To quote CRFB, “under CBO’s current law baseline, annual deficits will return to trillion-dollar levels by 2024. Under a more pessimistic Alternative Fiscal Scenario in which policymakers fail to pay for new spending and extended tax cuts, trillion-dollar deficits return to 2021 and reach $1.5 trillion — a nominal-dollar record — by 2026.”
Despite the magnitude of our debt, there have been some who have suggested that our soaring debt is no big deal. Rather, they have asserted that debt is good, particularly when interest rates are at historical lows.
In contrast to that view though is that of Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who in 2011 stated,
“the single, biggest threat to our national security is our debt, so I also believe we have every responsibility to help eliminate that threat. A nation with our current levels of unsustainable debt… cannot hope to sustain for very long its superiority from a military perspective, or its influence in world affairs.”
Every budget is finite, even one as large as our federal government’s, which is now approaching $4 trillion per year. So as certain components of that budget increase, they either crowd out other line items or they demand greater borrowings to meet the shortfall caused by deficit spending.
Our nation has enjoyed historically low interest rates for a number of years. But when those interest rates invariably rise, so will interest costs. In fact, the CBO projects that those rising interest rates over the next ten years will increase the federal interest costs from $223 billion in 2015 to $839 billion in 2026. This will lead to fewer dollars available for other essential government programs, including the military, Medicare, Social Security, infrastructure and more.
Chart 4: Projected net interest expense, in billions of dollars & as a % of total outlays
So just how does a government that has an insatiable appetite for spending, and has shown no restraint to borrowing funds, affect ordinary citizens like you and me? Here are just a few of the ways:
Economic growth is threatened as national debt increases.
Wages are depressed and the availability of jobs is minimized.
The stability of Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid is jeopardized.
Personal costs of living increase as interest rates on individual credit ratchet up.
Burden for repayment of nation’s overspending today will be heaped on our children and grandchildren tomorrow.
As debt increases and spending accelerates, likelihood of another financial crisis increases, endangering personal wages, jobs, and investments.
As I mentioned at the outset, half of Americans are hopeful and even optimistic about what a Trump Presidency portends for the days ahead. But with great opportunity comes great responsibility. So as Republicans maintain control of both houses and gain the White House in January, how will they behave? Will they move the country forward in a manner that acknowledges the threat of our growing debt? Will Republicans guide our government and nation back in the direction of fiscal solvency? Or will their new found status in Washington reveal what they have done for too long now, campaign on grandiose promises that fall short on delivery?
Time will tell. But one thing is for certain, the longer our fiscal cancer is ignored, the more likely the ultimate diagnosis will be one from which we may never recover. If you care to weigh-in on this matter, be sure to let your Congressman and Senator know that you expect them to support plans that will move away from deficit spending and toward a balance budget. While it cannot be done overnight, the road back to fiscal responsibility must begin in 2017 under a Trump administration.
Addendum: While this article focused on the current portion of our national debt, there is a much larger amount that receives very little attention, referred to as the nation’s “unfunded liabilities.” These amounts total in excess of $100 trillion and represent the sum of the various obligations that will come due over the next several decades, predominantly made up of Medicare and Social Security, as the demographics of our nation continue to age out and draw more heavily on these programs. To find out more about this avalanche of debt, google “unfunded liabilities.”