trump, mitch mcconnell, paul ryan, and mike pence, celebrating tax cuts
Credit: The White House/Flickr

I’m old enough to remember when a Democrat was president and the Republicans couldn’t stop howling about the deficit and the national debt.

The nation’s fiscal outlook looks ever bleaker, thanks in part to deficit spending during President Donald Trump’s first term, Congress’ nonpartisan budget scorekeeper projected Tuesday.

Within 16 years, the federal deficit is expected to be the largest in history, outpacing even the fiscal shortfalls that followed World War II, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.

Congress’ recent tax and spending laws — along with ballooning costs of programs like Social Security and Medicare — also are driving up the amount the government pays in interest on money borrowed to make up for the gap in cash coming in and going out.

Indeed, those interest payments will exceed the cost of all Social Security spending within decades, CBO predicts. Interest costs also will be higher than discretionary spending, which amounts to all federal dollars Congress controls.

Back then, we used to point out that Republicans always act like deficit scolds when they’re out of power but then spend like drunken sailors when they are in power themselves. This was our way of suggesting there was a certain lack of sincerity involved in their rhetoric. When they forced government shutdowns and damaged our national credit rating with their threats to default on our debt, we tried to point out that they didn’t actually care about deficit spending in the least, but only cared about tax cuts and not letting funds be spent on Democratic priorities.

Some people listened, but mostly we were told that we needed to compromise with the terrorists.

I am just using this opportunity to point out that Trump is the third Republican president in a row to follow a Democrat into office and then immediately balloon the deficit with overly large tax cuts that disproportionately favor the rich and fail to deliver on their promise that increased economic growth will make them pay for themselves.

Personally, I don’t like spending money on interest payments. Unless you’re making smart and timely investments, this is usually wasted money. That’s why in a time of historically low interest rates, we should have made massive investments in infrastructure rather than giving all the cheap money away to our richest citizens.

But, we don’t seem to ever learn, so I expect to back here again one day after a Democratic president comes in does his or her best to right our flagging ship. We’ll be told they’re not doing enough to fix the deficit and then a new Republican president will immediately move to give what little money we have to their donors in the name of freedom and apple pie.

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at