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March 5, 2017

Both Sides Now, Nonsensically

IPI expert referenced: Merrill Matthews | In The News | Media Hit
  Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

By Ralph Reiland

“Each U.S. taxpayer now has a federal-debt liability of $1.1 million, and rising,” reported Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar at the Institute for Policy Innovation, a research-based public policy think tank, for Forbes in October 2013.

“The public tends to focus on the total national debt, which just passed the $17 trillion mark — up from $10.6 trillion when President Obama took office,” explained Matthews. “But that figure pales in comparison to the federal government's long-term unfunded liabilities — money the government is obligated to pay over and above the revenues it is estimated to receive. According to the U.S. Debt Clock, total long-term unfunded liabilities are at $126 trillion ... .”

Those debt numbers are from nine months into Obama's second term. The national debt that had then “just passed the $17 trillion mark” expanded to $19.9 trillion by Jan. 19, 2017, at the conclusion of Obama's presidency, according to the U.S. Treasury Department's Bureau of the Fiscal Service — a near-doubling of the total federal debt of $10.6 trillion when Obama took office.

“We've borrowed more money under Barack Obama than we borrowed from George Washington through George W. Bush,” asserted Stephen Moore, an economic adviser to Donald Trump, during a mid-October debate in the presidential race.

Unfortunately, failure to get control of the rising tide of federal red ink is a case of cross-party budgetary irresponsibility and bipartisan financial idiocy.

The Bureau of the Fiscal Service reports that the national debt increased 87 percent during Obama's eight years in office. Similarly, it increased 86.3 percent during George W. Bush's eight years.

It's clear that both political parties deserve a failing grade for their financial performance over the past 16 years. The federal debt nearly doubled during the eight years that the party allegedly in favor of fiscal soundness, individual responsibility, free markets and limited government controlled the White House, followed by the debt nearly doubling again in Obama's eight years, when supposed experts from the Ivy League establishment moved into the West Wing as senior advisers in intensifying the centralization of social and economic planning and escalating the command powers of the state.

Hillary Clinton's plan for reducing persistent federal deficits and the resulting growth in the national debt was more “fairness” via bigger government, more federal spending and more than $1 trillion in new taxes — a proposal for lower economic growth, lower income expansion and less productivity, as resources and income would have been shifted from the private sector to an already bloated, corrupt and wasteful federal behemoth.

On the other side, President Trump called for new borrowing for more government spending “while interest rates are low,” in addition to saying about the $20 trillion federal debt that “you never have to default because you print the money,” and “if the economy crashed, you could make a deal” to pay bondholders less than what they're owed.

Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics emeritus at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (


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