As I repeat over and over again, our two biggest national problems, in my opinion, are slow economic growth (only 2.1% annual increases in GDP for the past seven years) and massive public debt (now 74% of GDP, the highest it has been since right after WWII).
Are these problems being addressed by our political system?
- Our 2016 presidential race is clearly touching on them to some extent. The “Sandernistas” think that the Obama economic policies are not progressive enough and need to be doubled down on. Middle-income “Trumpsters” are revolting against the stagnant and falling wage growth of the past fifteen years.
- The political scientist James Piereson thinks that the Democratic-welfare regime, in place since 1932, has now run its course and will necessarily be superseded by America’s Fourth Revolution which is imminent.
- The social scientist Yuval Levin thinks that our “Fractured Republic” can heal itself peacefully if the left is willing to accept a less centralized, more federalist, governmental approach to solving economic and fiscal problems and the right is willing to accept that modern America is highly diverse and individualistic and where a significant degree of cultural fracturing, family breakdown and estrangement from tradition are inevitable.
My own opinion is that our huge and rapidly growing public debt (on which we pay interest) is unsustainable and will lead to another crisis much worse than the Great Recession of 2008-2009 unless it is curtailed. Without an adequate response in the meantime, the new crisis will occur when interest rates inevitably rise significantly and therefore lead to huge increases in interest payments on our larger and larger accumulated debt.
To avoid such a calamity we need to do a much better job of controlling federal spending. It would also help to speed up economic growth in order to increase tax revenue. Furthermore, faster growth would create more jobs and better paying jobs. This would take much of the steam out of the appeal of populist candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
I can’t foresee exactly how we will be forced to change course but it’s going to happen fairly soon.