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national debt
September 26, 2018

In about five years, the U.S. federal government could starting spending more in interest on its debt than on the military — which accounts for more than half of discretionary spending — or domestic programs like Medicaid, The New York Times reports, citing Congressional Budget Office projections. "The run-up in borrowing costs is a one-two punch brought on by the need to finance a fast-growing budget deficit, worsened by tax cuts and steadily rising interest rates that will make the debt more expensive," the Times explains.

Years of record low interest rates have "allowed the government to take on more debt without paying more interest," says Marc Goldwein at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "That party is ending," and "by 2020, we will spend more on interest than we do on kids, including education, food stamps, and aid to families." Within 10 years, the U.S. will face more than $900 billion a year in interest payments, the CBO projects. Next year, when the federal deficit is forecast to top $1 trillion, interest costs will hit $390 billion, 50 percent more than in 2017.

Interest payments were already going to grow without the massive tax cut Republicans pushed through in December and higher spending approved by both parties in February. But the combination of the tax cuts, spending hikes, and rising interest rates puts the U.S. in the largely uncharted territory of stimulating an already booming economy, giving the government fewer tools for when a recession hits. "There's no guarantee that these forecasts will prove accurate," the Times cautions. "If the economy weakens, rates might fall or rise only slightly, reducing interest payments. But rates could also overshoot the budget office forecast." You can read more, and see some helpful charts, at The New York Times. Peter Weber

February 5, 2018

While most of Washington was fixated on the classified memo from House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) last week, the Treasury Department said that it expects to borrow $955 billion in fiscal 2018, an 84 percent jump over fiscal 2017. The Treasury Department mainly attributed this near-doubling of government borrowing to the "fiscal outlook," The Washington Post notes, but the Congressional Budget Office said last week that the tax overhaul Republicans passed in December will lower tax receipts by $10 billion to $15 billion a month this year. The tax law will add at least $1 trillion to the national debt over 10 years, congressional analysts forecast, and that accounts for economic growth.

"We're addicted to debt," says Marc Goldwein at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, blaming both Republicans and Democrats for the problem. Treasury predicts the U.S. will borrow more than $1 trillion in 2019 and more than $1.1 trillion in 2020, and this year's $955 billion is already the biggest jump in borrowing, as a share of GDP, outside of a recession year since Ronald Reagan's presidency, former Treasury adviser Ernie Tedeschi tells the Post. The U.S. borrowed $1.79 billion in 2009, during the Great Recession, and $1.1 trillion in 2012, but borrowing has been significantly below $1 trillion since 2013.

President Trump and Congress have an expensive list of things they want to spend money on this year, but the uptick in borrowing may come with a cost. "Some of my Wall Street clients are starting to talk recession in 2019 because of these issues," Peter Davis, a former tax economist in Congress, tells the Post. "Fiscal policy is just out of control." But the tax overhaul is paying some dividends — just ask House Speaker Paul Ryan. Peter Weber

December 18, 2017

"Millennials, you just had $1.5 trillion stolen from you," MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said on Morning Joe on Monday, referring to the $1.5 trillion the Republican tax plan is predicted to add to the federal deficit, and thus the national debt, in the next decade. "Past Congresses have stolen $20 trillion from you," he continued, citing the current national debt total, "and over the next ten years, they're going to steal another $10 trillion from you. And they're going to die, and then you're going to be left holding the bill."

Scarborough went on to level charges of irresponsibility at both parties, criticizing both for their role in growing the national debt to its present size. Particularly if the GOP tax bill weakens the economy, he mused, it will "turn a lot of people into socialists." Watch his comments in context below. Bonnie Kristian

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