weather icon Clear

SAUNDERS: USA IOU. Brother, can you spare a trillion?

WASHINGTON — Fiscal restraint is dead. The federal government spends $1.5 trillion more than it takes in. The national debt is $34.5 trillion.

That’s more than $100,000 in debt for every man, woman and child in America.

No worries. On Monday, President Joe Biden’s released a $7.3 trillion budget for fiscal year 2025 that would increase taxes, increase spending — and increase the national debt.

Team Biden framed its 2025 package, with its 10-year $5 trillion hike in taxes on corporations and the affluent, as “progress” that fulfills the president’s commitment to “fiscal responsibility.”

Call it: Tax and Spend More — and Still Borrow More.

No one expects the Biden spending plan to become law as is. But the POTUS plan makes it clear that Washington is not going to rein in runaway spending.

The White House crowed, “Already, the President has cancelled more student debt than any President in history.” He’s given college graduates a break even though they expect to earn more than the vast majority of Americans who did not get a four-year degree. It’s a bald way of buying the votes of elites, his base.

Worse, loan forgiveness encourages young people to borrow money for a degree without thinking through whether they expect to repay their debt.

Republicans have shown as little interest in cutting spending as Democrats.

Both of the parties’ presidential nominees apparently believe the candidate who talks honestly about taxing and spending can’t win. So unless a third party candidate comes forward to remind Americans of the inevitable fiscal pain that awaits, there will be no pressure to reform.

Monday former President Donald Trump flirted with the notion of cutting Medicare and Social Security — he told CNBC, “there is a lot you can do in terms of entitlements, in terms of cutting” and going after bad mismanagement.

What looked like a a moment of actual fiscal responsibility was followed by a hasty retreat. Trump promptly told Breitbart, “There’s so much cutting and so much waste in so many other areas, but I’ll never do anything to hurt Social Security.” Trump also said he would not hurt Medicare.

Team Biden saw an opportunity.

Stumping in Milwaukee on Wednesday, Biden swatted his predecessor when he said, “Just this week, former President Donald Trump said cuts to Social Security and Medicare are on the table. I want to assure you I will never allow it to happen.”

As a candidate in the 2016 election, Trump offered that he could pay down the then $19 trillion national debt during his hoped-for two terms in office.

Instead, Trump oversaw spending that drove up the national IOU — both before COVID and after, when any president would have pumped truckloads of money into the economy to avoid catastrophe.

During Trump’s tenure, the deficit rose by $7.8 trillion — more than it did under any non-wartime president, The Washington Post and ProPublica found in 2021.

Big media aren’t all over this story, so there’s no pressure on candidates to talk about a reasonable path to fiscal sanity.

I don’t get it. If I were a young voter with a long future before me, I’d be in a rage. I’d press the 81-year-old president and his 77-year-old rival to explain how much longer the over-spending can last.

The answer, alas, is that the spending spree only has to last for their careers. Then it’s someone else’s problem.

Contact Review-Journal Washington columnist Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com. Follow @debrajsaunders on X.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.