National Debt (copy)

We’re borrowing money from ourselves and China to pay for things we ought to buy with cash or not at all. Our grandchildren may curse us for our national profligacy, including Tuesday’s compromise. Tulsa World file

Congratulations to President Trump and Democratic leaders in Congress for coming to a debt and budget agreement without a crisis.

Trump, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer announced the plan Monday. It increases the national debt limit, sets overall spending limits and prevents $125 billion in automatic spending cuts from hitting the Pentagon and domestic agencies in January.

While there are still debates to be had about specific spending packages and priorities, the agreement increases the debt limit enough to last two years. There’s little doubt both sides were eager to get through the next election cycle without the potential for another partial government shutdown or default on the national debt.

Whatever the motive, the urge to avoid a self-inflicted financial crisis for the richest nation on earth is a good one. The seemingly constant budgetary brinksmanship of recent years accomplished little good and quite a bit of bad. It damaged the nation’s financial reputation and increased public cynicism about the ability of Washington to accomplish the basics of governance.

All that said, we’re still a long way from having our house in order.

The national debt is too high, and nobody seems genuinely interested in doing anything about it. We’re borrowing money from ourselves and China to pay for things we ought to buy with cash or not at all. In a time of prosperity and full employment, we’re maintaining the fiscal policy of a nation in depression, enriching the 1% and leaving us with fewer options when we do have an economic downturn. Our grandchildren may curse us for our national profligacy, including Tuesday’s compromise.

Republicans and Democrats have shown some budgetary sanity by avoiding a debt crisis. Perhaps now they can aspire to some actual financial wisdom with some deficit reduction.

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