It is easy to feel overwhelmed by a constant flow of bad news: the spike in new Covid-19 infections, the botched Afghan withdrawal, tropical storm Ida racing up the East coast, drought and wildfires in the west, etc. It seems like there is a steady stream of serious problems to deal with. Here is my Midwestern perspective (I live in Omaha NE).
I maintain that this list overlooks the biggest problem of all. Consider:
- The pandemic is basically under control in the U.S. Nearly 75% of adults have now been vaccinated against Covid. The spike in new infections, caused by the Delta variant, is mostly affecting the unvaccinated. In other words, get vaccinated, exercise reasonable precautions, and you have little to worry about.
- The Afghan withdrawal was handled very poorly and this gives a boost to our many adversaries around the world. But this is a temporary setback from which we will recover. Our biggest foreign policy challenge is China which wants to take over Taiwan but is unlikely to risk an outright attack.
- Global Warming. Global temperatures have increased by one-degree centigrade since pre-industrial times and sea levels are rising at the rate of one foot per century. This is serious but not catastrophic. Carbon emissions are still rising worldwide even though they are now decreasing in the U.S. and many other western countries. China is by far the world’s worst carbon emitter. Worldwide carbon emissions will not begin to decline until China gets on board.
- Political polarization in the U.S. Polarization is caused primarily by the identity politics practiced by the progressive left and the reaction to it by conservatives. Polarization will gradually fade away as America continues to become more and more racially assimilated.
These above-listed problems are real but can be managed and adapted to. But there is a huge problem on the horizon which is steadily getting much worse and will eventually blow up into a new fiscal crisis if it is not taken seriously. It is the
- National debt which has grown $5 trillion in the last 18 months, because of the pandemic, and now totals over $28 trillion. When interest rates go up eventually, as they inevitably will, interest payments on the debt will skyrocket and cause a massive new crisis, much worse than the Financial Crisis of 20008. In this respect, it is heartening to hear that Senator Joe Mansion (D, WV) has announced his opposition to the Democrats’ currently proposed $3.5 trillion spending blowout, see here and here.
Conclusion. The U.S. has plenty of new (and recurring) problems to deal with all the time such as the pandemic, global warming, foreign policy challenges, and polarization. But these are routine serious problems compared to the worst problem of all: the national debt. There is now a good chance that Congress will slow way down in passing giant new spending bills. Let’s hope that this move towards fiscal restraint holds firm!