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What will candidates do about soaring debt?

September 21, 2018

President Donald Trump and Congress keep piling more debt onto our children and grandchildren.

What will Wisconsin’s congressional candidates do about it? We want to know. Voters in the Nov. 6 elections deserve clear and specific answers.

America’s annual budget deficit is approaching $1 trillion this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. And that’s on top of $21.5 trillion in total national debt.

The Congressional Budget Office last week reported the annual deficit is increasing faster than it predicted last spring. During the first 11 months of Trump’s first full fiscal year in the White House (October through last month), the deficit totaled $895 billion — an increase of $222 billion over the same period the previous year, which is a 33 percent hike.

So much for the Republican tax cuts paying for themselves. Instead, America keeps digging deeper into debt, and the conservative party that claims to be fiscally responsible doesn’t seem to care.

That has to change.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, correctly warned against trillion-dollar annual budget deficits when Democratic President Barack Obama was in the White House. Those annual deficits gradually fell to less than a half-trillion dollars as the economy improved during Obama’s second term. Then they started rising again as Obama was leaving office. Now Trump has accelerated the trend with higher spending and tax cuts.

Speaker Ryan has mostly gone along with Trump’s reckless policies during the last year, all but abandoning his calls for fiscal sanity. That strategy of placing his political party’s interests over those of the nation’s long-term future has failed miserably.

The economy is strong, thank goodness. But instead of paying down debt during good times — or even trying to slow its scary trajectory — Washington is adding fuel to the fire. According to the CBO, federal spending is up 7 percent so far this fiscal year to $3.9 trillion, far outpacing revenue growth of 1 percent to $3 trillion.

The United States can’t continue to spend — year after year after year — more than it collects in revenue. A crisis is looming, as Ryan so eloquently used to say.

With Ryan leaving Congress, creating an opening in the 1st Congressional District, Republican hopeful Bryan Steil of Janesville and Democratic challenger Randy Bryce of Caledonia need to weigh in on this crucial issue. So must all of the candidates hoping to serve in the House and Senate next year from Wisconsin.

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