Publisher's note: This post, by Ray Nothstine, was originally published in Civitas's online edition.
Certainly, the most disappointing part of President Donald Trump's State of the Union address was that there was no mention of the federal spending crisis or our $23 trillion national debt. In fact, it's the glaring failure of his presidency given that Trump promised to eliminate the federal deficit in eight years during his 2016 campaign. Despite great theatrics in his speech and a fairly booming economy, there wasn't much in terms of championing limited government at all.
Since the three year anniversary of Trump's inauguration in January, the national debt has increased by over $3.2 trillion
. The U.S. will now average $1.3 trillion deficits from now until 2031
Even Mike Pence, once considered a spending hawk and more than competent on budget issues, is now defending
the debt. (Pence was once president of a free-market think tank so he should know better.)
Of course, this isn't just a failure of Trump but mainly decades and decades of kicking the can down the road by both political parties in Congress. From a policy standpoint, there's hardly anything more depressing than watching the federal debt and liability clock
Unsustainable government debt is a tax and inevitably will erode the savings and freedom of Americans through inflationary policies and a demand for more and more revenue. It's a reminder that all of us, and particularly future generations, will live a more meager existence as the federal government will require to seize more private wealth and capital. I remember wise words from Larry Reed
, president emeritus of FEE, who noted that "By devaluing the currency, the U.S. government has been doing a slow-motion default for decades."
And it wouldn't shock me if one day in the future there will be a payroll deduction just for interest on the national debt.
It's also a political reminder that the federal government is completely broken and states like North Carolina need to continue to set the example for responsible spending.
Civitas President Donald Bryson has penned an article defending a Convention of States Project, in part to bring spending reforms through an amendments convention. Of course, practically anything is better than the current status quo spending binge.
Over the last 10 years, North Carolina's General Assembly has set the state on a vastly improved spending path, including debt management. Civitas Executive Vice President Brian Balfour has written about how conservative legislators have reduced North Carolina's debt burden
Carolina Journal has an excellent write up
on State Treasurer Dale Folwell's warnings about the dangers of taking on more state debt. Particularly in regards to unfunded liabilities such as healthcare expenses and pensions for state employees. North Carolina needs to meet its future promises and obligations while making reforms to deemphasize federal dependency.
As federal spending increasingly spirals out of control, North Carolina can be the national leader concerning the many benefits of limited government and responsible spending. I recall at the last Conservative Leadership Conference
Lt. Gov Dan Forest rightfully called out Republicans in Congress for their spending and irresponsible budgets. Let's hope he is still sounding that alarm and more and more politicians and the citizenry join in that chorus. It's long past time to get serious about one of the greatest moral issues this nation has ever faced.