The debt seems abstract, but another recession would not be; neither would continued meager growth. As the CBO observes:
Large and growing federal debt over the coming decades would hurt the economy and constrain future budget policy. The amount of debt that is projected under the extended baseline would reduce national saving and income in the long term; increase the government’s interest costs, putting more pressure on the rest of the budget; limit lawmakers’ ability to respond to unforeseen events; and increase the likelihood of a fiscal crisis.
Republicans used to claim entitlement spending was the problem. However, they’ve shown no political appetite to actually reduce it. By disingenuously claiming that tax cuts would pay for themselves and refusing to come up with the spending cuts they had warned were necessary, they have taken the country into a fiscal cul-de-sac.
The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which warned against debt-producing tax legislation, asserts: “Today’s report confirms that our nation’s fiscal outlook is on a dangerous and unsustainable path. With substantial imbalances between spending and revenues projected well into the future, we are on course to burden America’s children with trillions more in debt and hurt their economic opportunities. The debt outlook would be even more dire if lawmakers extend the tax cuts and higher spending levels that were enacted in recent months.”
Likewise, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget argues: “Lawmakers need to come to the table and address this situation before it gets further out of hand. That will require looking at ways to fix the tax law, set reasonable and responsible discretionary spending levels, curb the growth of health care spending, make Social Security solvent, and pursue a mix of further revenue increases and spending cuts sufficient to put the debt on a downward path relative to the economy.”
Unfortunately, both the administration and Congress show zero political will to address the problem. The man who repeatedly sounded the alarm about debt, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) leaves our debt outlook worse than he found it and heading toward an eventual train wreck. His kids and grandkids will be paying for this for decades through higher taxes, higher interest rates and lower economic growth. It’s quite the legacy.