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Americans for Prosperity-Texas recently joined with like-minded partners to host an informational session on the impact of our growing national debt. It’s a problem that candidates of both major parties regularly pay lip service to during campaigns, only to keep approving budgets and spending bills that push the debt ever higher.
In 2008, when the national debt was nearly $11 trillion, then presidential candidate Barack Obama promised to go through the budget “line by line” to eliminate waste, and said “we have to prioritize how we’re spending money in Washington.”
By the time he left the White House in 2017, the debt had climbed to nearly $20 trillion.
Candidate Donald Trump campaigned on a promise of eliminating the debt, but instead saw it grow to nearly $28 trillion in just four years.
This is an issue where both parties might talk a good game, but do little to match actions to that rhetoric. As a result, the Congressional Budget Office recently projected the U.S. would add nearly $13 trillion to the federal debt over the next 10 years.
Against this background, AFP-Texas joined with other organizations interested in spending and debt to give lawmakers an opportunity to discuss their views of the problem.
We heard from U.S. Representatives Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), as well as Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush. The discussion with these officials was led by Kevin Roberts of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Weston Wamp of the Millennial Debt Foundation, and Akash Chougule, Vice President of Economic Opportunity at Stand Together.
Crenshaw noted that restraining spending to begin to curb the debt need not be draconian:
It doesn’t mean zero deficits. What it can mean is that that deficit is tied to economic output with some kind of formula that puts us on a sustainable trajectory.
It’s worth noting that the CBO regularly prepares a menu of deficit reduction options for lawmakers to consider.
Bush pointed to the expansion of federal authority as a key contributor to the growth of spending and deficits. “It’s drifted way too far from what the founders contemplated,” he said. “The contemplation at the time the drafters came together was to have a limited government that was focused on some very simple things and to only be involved in the states’ management of issues on a limited array.”
Roy said both parties are a part of the problem:
Republicans get in their corner, saying we need defense spending. Democrats get in their corner saying we need non-defense discretionary spending. And then everybody blames entitlements – “mandatory” spending. And then never do anything about it.
Bush wondered what the future holds if spending and debt are not brought under control, and what America will look like when his children are grown: “What I think about is, what kind of country are they going to inherit. And it’s looking like it’ll be a bankrupt one.”
Crenshaw called for leadership to make change – and said his party needs to do better: “Part of leadership is telling people uncomfortable truths. And we have too many leaders on the Republican side who refuse to do that.”
At the same time, he’s optimistic about the chance for success: “We can do this if we actually care about it and we’re willing to educate people on what needs to be done.”