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NOLAN FINLEY

Finley: $22 trillion debt? Let's spend more

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News
The national debt has passed a new milestone, topping $22 trillion for the first time.

The national debt crossed the $22 trillion mark this month with the same ho-hum response from the American people as when it topped $20 trillion, and $15 trillion and $10 trillion.

Just another unfathomably huge number that keeps growing, so don't bother us about it, because it's too big to be real anyway. 

Except that it is very real, and our individual share of it is $67,501.

While nobody is dunning us for the payment yet, it will have to be repaid someday with higher taxes, a lesser standard of living and fewer government services.

Doomsday may not be that far off. In fact, some experts believe the debt spiral has already begun.

On our current path, annual deficits will hit $2 trillion annually in a decade, according to Congressional Budget Office projections, and the debt will grow to 148 percent of GDP from today's 78 percent. Debt service will consume $1 trillion a year of the federal budget.

This is a catastrophe in the making. So how are our political leaders responding?

By perpetuating the pretense that we can have everything we want, charge it to the national credit card, and make someone else pay the bill.

President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans gave Americans a sizable tax break, a perfectly appropriate means of jolting the economy — if it came with offsetting spending cuts. But spending increased. So in the most prosperous stretch we've enjoyed in decades, revenues still lag expenditures by $1 trillion a year.

That fiscal recklessness should buy the GOP a ticket out of Washington. But those who would replace Trump are campaigning on even more gluttony.

Nearly every Democrat has signed on to the Medicare for All plan, a $3.2 trillion annual entitlement that would demand a doubling of tax revenues. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren kicked off her White House bid with a promise of universal child care, a $70 billion giveaway that she'd fund it with an "ultra-millionaires tax." The levy would raise $250 billion annually — the surplus, presumably, going toward even more new social programs.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and other candidates are putting free college on the table, at a cost of $47 billion, financed, they say, through a tax on Wall Street.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during an event to introduce the Raise The Wage Act in the Rayburn Room at the U.S. Capitol January 16, 2019 in Washington, DC. The proposed legislation, which will gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2024, is unlikely to pass in the Republican-controlled Senate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

And then there's the Green New Deal, which would blow the gates to socialism wide open. Implementation would require a doubling to quadrupling of federal expenditures.

But don't let all those new taxes scare you. Only the wealthy will pay them.

There's just one catch: The rich aren't rich enough to cover the tab.

Tapping the top 1 percent just to fill the current deficit would require an 102 percent tax rate on those earning above $400,000 a year.

The reality is that paying for the omnibus Democratic wish list would take an 87 percent value added tax on every purchase made by every American, or a new 37 percent payroll tax on every wage earner, rich and poor, according the Manhattan Institute. 

And we'd still have that $22 trillion-and-growing national debt.

My vote in 2020 will go to a candidate who levels with the American people about our dire fiscal condition, and the sacrifice required to fix it. 

nfinley@detroitnews.com

Catch “The Nolan Finley Show” weekdays 7-9 a.m. on 910 AM Superstation.