You never know how history will judge the time you live in. Will our opinions be relevant a hundred years from now? A thousand years from now? Johann Sebas-tian Bach was a forgotten musician for almost a century. But suddenly in the 1800s, he was “brought back to life,” and to this day is considered among the best composers ever.
We look at the Egyptian pyramids in awe. Those lucky enough to travel to Egypt and see the real thing are overcome by a feeling of admiration for the incredible human achievement that such huge and old constructions represent. Millions of people worked for generations to build them. Most probably, those serfs carrying 2.5-ton rocks under the Egyptian sun had a different opinion of the pyramids.
We, too, have been building a huge pyramid for the last 10 years — a pyramid that has been easy to build and could be as eternal as Cheops’ magnificent tomb. We call our great pyramid “the national debt.” And maybe that will be the main issue historians will write about in the future when they look back at the begin-ning of the 21st century in America.
Most people see the Obama and Trump presidencies as perfect opposites. It doesn’t matter if the issue is abortion, Iran, trade with China or personal eating habits, they are opposites. I wonder if that is going to be the opinion of future historians. Because when it comes to the national debt, so far they have been very similar. Actually, that could be said of every president since 1980.
When President Ronald Reagan started his first term in 1981, our national debt was almost a trillion dollars ($998 billion). Twenty years later, when George W. Bush assumed the presidency in 2001, the debt was almost six times higher: $5.8 trillion. At the end of President Barack Obama’s administration, the debt was $20 trillion. He added more than one trillion to it each year he occupied the White House.
During his presidential campaign, Trump promised to eliminate most of the national debt he inherited “over a period of eight years.” But during the first two years of his administration, the debt grew by another $2.5 trillion.
Usually in every family one parent is more responsible with money than the other one. (My children used to come to me at the gift store of any place we would visit — they knew that their mother was more inclined to question the wisdom of spending money on useless trinkets.)
The same used to be true for our national family. Traditionally, Republican politicians were supposed to be deficit hawks, while Democrats were characterized by their rivals as big spenders. That isn’t true anymore in any significant way.
At a time when our representatives and senators seem to be unable to agree on anything, they happily collaborate to irresponsibly add $1 trillion every year to our national debt.
Last week at the Democratic debate, while Andrew Yang was promoting universal basic income and Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders touted their “Medicare for All” proposal, which would cost $30 trillion over 10 years, I was just thinking about the Great Pyramid. Where they will find the money to pay for all those wonderful plans?
Our political system sometimes acts like a dysfunctional family, like a couple spending money to try to gain the affection of their kids without thinking about the mortgage or the college fund. The kids happily accept the gifts and trips to Disney World. But you know they won’t be happy when the family loses the house or when their parents can’t afford to send them to college.
Well, the Democrats and Republicans in Washington are those parents, and we, the voters, are the kids getting the over-the-top gifts with the extra trillion we spend each year. At some point, the check to pay for the mortgage will bounce.