US debt continues to skyrocket

By CHARLES DUNAGAIN,

OXFORD — The national debt isn’t my biggest concern in relation to the coronavirus, and obviously it isn’t President Trump’s either.

Nor do many people in Congress seem to be worrying about it — the deficit, that is.

I worry more about someone in my family or, to be honest, myself coming down with the virus.

I’m missing various springtime activities in Oxford, especially college baseball. A trip to an event on the Mississippi Gulf Coast next week has been called off.

I heard my preacher deliver his Sunday morning sermon online, but it really wasn’t like actually being there, interacting with the congregation and attending Sunday school.

So, it’s a bunch of small disruptions and inconveniences that vex me more than the national debt, which I can’t do anything about anyway.

The president, I suspect, is more worried about the immediate economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak than the long-term impact on the national deficit and debt.

Maybe we all — especially the president, the  Congress and the Democratic presidential candidates — should take the deficit and debt a little more seriously.

Both are bound to increase in the wake of increased government spending to keep citizens and the economy afloat in the current national crisis.

There was a time when Republicans such as Dwight Eisenhower would already be worrying about the government spending more than it’s taking in. But current Republicans, led by Trump, are no more financially prudent than Democrats.

The budget deficit for the first four months of fiscal 2020 is $389.2 billion, the Treasury Department reports. That’s a 25% gain from the same period a year ago.

In February, the  national debt went past $23 trillion.

In simple terms, the budget deficit measures the  country’s annual net fiscal loss in a given year — that is  expenditures minus revenue. The national debt is what the government  owes.

The debt-to-GDP ratio is the ratio between the country’s government debt and its gross domestic product. A low debt-to-GDP ratio indicates an economy that produces and sells goods and services sufficient to pay back debts without incurring further debt.

The national debt recently  reached 110 percent of GDP,  the largest debt-to-GDP ratio since 118.9 percent at the end of World War II.

Wikipedia notes: “Public debt as a percentage of GDP fell rapidly in the post-World War II period, and reached a low in 1973 under President Richard Nixon. Debt as a share of GDP has consistently increased since then, except during the terms of presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Public debt rose during the 1980s, as President Reagan cut tax rates and increased military spending. It fell during the 1990s, due to decreased military spending, increased taxes and the 1990s boom. Public debt rose sharply in the wake of the 2007-08 financial crisis and the resulting significant tax revenue declines and spending increases.”

There’s certainly nothing unAmerican about the government being in debt.

From the Revolutionary War until now, there has been only one brief period when the country had no public debt. In 1835, President Andrew Jackson paid off the entire national debt, the only time in U.S. history that has happened.

Over the years, the debt-to- GDP has fluctuated from a World War II high of more than 118% to as low as 32.5%.

But since World War II, it wasn’t until after the 2008 financial crisis when Barack Obama was in office that it passed 100 percent of GDP.

President Trump promised during his 2016 campaign to eliminate the national debt in eight years.

Right now he seems headed in the opposite direction.

Dunagin, who lives in Oxford, is a retired longtime Mississippi newspaperman.

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CHARLESTON —  Albert Curtis Jr., age 76, passed away Sunday, March 29.

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