“Republicans in Congress, on the whole, no longer care about debt or deficits—at least not in any substantive sense. That’s a problem for a number of reasons, not least that it increases the risk of a debt crisis in the future.
Those same Republicans spent the better part of Barack Obama’s presidency complaining bitterly about the trillion-dollar budget gaps the country ran during his first term, and President Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail to eliminate all federal debt. But since Trump’s election, deficits have increased even faster than expected, and the total federal debt has risen accordingly. That, in turn, is likely to have long-term consequences for both the economy and for the broader politics of debt and deficits.”
“By 2030, CBO projects the deficit—the annual gap between spending and revenues—will reach $1.7 trillion, which was roughly the size of the entire federal budget in 1999. Rising debt and deficits, the budget office predicts, will coincide with slowing economic growth, dropping from 2.2 percent this year to 1.5 percent a decade from now. The federal government will be borrowing more, and the economy will be expanding at a slower pace. It may not lead to an immediate economic crisis, but the nation is spending and borrowing into stagnancy and decline.”
“The biggest drivers of long-term debt are Medicare and Social Security, which benefit seniors, many of whom are reliable Republican voters. Trump ran against cutting those entitlements, and although his rhetoric has wavered slightly in recent months, he has not pressed the issue. Republicans in Congress don’t exactly seem eager to tackle it either. (Trump’s 2020 budget proposed reducing some Medicare payments, similar to proposals made by the Obama administration, but would leave the program’s essential benefit structure intact.)
Trump also does not appear to worry much about what happens down the road. When his advisers in 2018 raised the possibility of a future deficit crisis, the president reportedly shrugged it off, saying, “Yeah, but I won’t be here.” Absent some event to force his hand, it’s unlikely that attitude will change.”
“One possible forcing event would be the election of a Democratic president in 2020, which would almost certainly see the GOP return to its Obama-era complaints about sky-high debt and deficits.
Yet if that were to happen, Democrats would most likely dismiss these complaints as hypocritical—not as honest efforts to enforce needed fiscal restraint but as self-interested attempts to check the opposite party’s agenda. The Democratic primary race, which has prominently featured calls for tens of trillions in new spending, has already provided evidence for this view.”