As I discussed in my last post, Donald Trump’s primary mandate from the presidential election is to get the economy growing faster in order to help out his base of blue-collar workers who have suffered wage stagnation for many years and especially since the end of the Great Recession in June 2009. The tax and regulatory reform needed to accomplish this urgent task will undoubtedly turn out to be the first plank of Trumponomics.
But there is another equally urgent task which must not be overlooked by the incoming Trump Administration. Our national debt, the public part on which we pay interest, is now 75% of GDP, the highest level since the end of WWII, and projected by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to keep growing rapidly in the years just ahead (see chart above).
As Barron’s has pointed out, “Saving America, Part 1”, in its current issue:
- Today’s public debt of $14 trillion will grow to $45 trillion in just 20 years’ time on the basis of current entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid, without any new spending programs or tax cuts.
- The annual interest on a $45 trillion debt load would be about $750 billion at today’s super low interest rates. If interest rates rise to more typical levels, the interest payment on this level of debt would be about $1.5 trillion a year. This represents almost half of all federal spending during the current 2016-2017 budget year.
Conclusion. Such a high level of interest payment on our debt is unthinkable. This means that either we make fundamental reforms in government entitlement programs in the next few years or else we will have a severe fiscal crisis on our hands in less than twenty years’ time. We have some stark choices to make and hopefully the incoming Trump Administration will not shy away from what needs to be done.