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A Trillion Here, and a Trillion There . . .

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(NiseriN/Getty Images) The politicians who’ve run up our current record debts and deficits should be ashamed of themselves.

The first step to solving any problem is admitting that you have one. And the United States definitely has a spending problem.

Sadly, no one in Washington wants to admit it.

But refusing to accept reality does not make it go away; reality has a tendency to reassert itself at inconvenient times. And the reality is this: The United States is the most indebted entity in the history of the world. As of January 1, 2021, the federal debt topped $28 trillion: that’s twenty-eight million million, or $28,000,000,000,000. (Unless otherwise noted, all data in this article come from the St. Louis Fed.) That is an increase of nearly $5 trillion in the last twelve months, and a nearly $14 trillion increase over the last ten years. For context, the public debt did not reach $14 trillion until 2010, meaning that we have added as much debt to our national ledger in the last decade as we did in the first 221 years as a country. None of this includes the trillions more that Congress appears intent on spending on “infrastructure” both “hard” and “soft,” whatever those terms may mean.

The debt is out of control because spending is out of control. In four of the last five fiscal quarters, the United States spent at least $7.2 trillion, and as much as $9.1 trillion. Yes, much of that was in response to the pandemic (though even more was in response to the government’s response to the pandemic). But even before the pandemic, in 2019, we were spending nearly $5 trillion each quarter. Do you feel like you are getting $5 trillion worth of value from your federal government every three months? Neither do I.

These numbers are staggering enough, but not nearly as staggering as the coming tsunami of spending and debt that this country is facing from entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, at least as currently structured. The government’s own estimates show that social-insurance programs

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