By Trish Zornio
For weeks there was intense debate over a $ 3.5 trillion budget plan in the US Senate. Some Democrats say we should spend more. Others say we should spend less. For the most part, Republicans say no to all of this.
Politics is fun, isn’t it?
Of course, dollars matter. Anyone who argues that the United States is already in too much debt to spend more has a legitimate leg to lean on – although many of those same people didn’t flinch at all when the national debt rose by nearly 7,800. billion dollars under former President Donald. Asset. (Were these big tax breaks for business really worth it?)
Indeed, the nation now has $ 28.4 trillion in the hole – with the highest debt-to-GDP ratio since at least 2000. Without a doubt, this amount of debt is a problem and we will have to fix it. But it’s not as easy as not spending to pay it back. If it did, we would all be on board.
The problem is, our country has major infrastructure issues that need to be addressed now or it will cost us even more down the road. With that in mind, adding additional debt to address these issues might actually make fiscal sense.
Take, for example, climate change.
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The science is quite clear that if we fail to tackle climate change, the costs to the United States will increase dramatically over time. Many cost estimates run into the trillions. When you consider spending a few hundred billion dollars on infrastructure now to avoid billions of billions later, it suddenly seems like an incredibly wise investment – even if it means increasing the national debt slightly. In fact, one could easily argue that we haven’t spent enough to date and are already paying more than necessary.
Similar long-term benefits can be seen throughout the bill.
Consider the billions set aside for universal kindergarten from age 3. At first glance, it seems expensive and we can wonder about the timing given our debt. Yet again, research clearly shows that these are wise investments. Several studies estimate that for every public dollar spent on improving children’s early experiences, there is a 7% to 13% annual return on investment. Putting aside the benefits for people is an economically smart decision.
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Of course, we also care about the impacts on people, so if we consider not only the short term health of our nation, but the long term as well, then incurring such debt might be wise. This is seen with other proposed policies such as paid family leave, child care, and wildland fire resources, where the costs saved over time are worth the initial debt.
However, there are a few proposals in the bill that should give us all pause.
For example, during a national debt crisis, cutting taxes for those who earn nearly half a million a year seems a bit… out of place. Especially given the extreme wealth disparities in America today, arguing for lower taxes on people earning a quarter of a million dollars a year not only seems tax-reckless, but out of touch with most Americans. . Arguing to lower taxes for the lower and middle class, however, makes a lot of sense, as does dramatically raising taxes for the richest 1% and corporations.
Especially, when it comes to spending and debt, I’m fascinated by the number of discussions that focus on a specific number – $ 1.5 trillion, $ 2.5 trillion, $ 3.5 trillion, $ 6 trillion – as if we decide how much we want to add to the debt and only then consider what we can get for the price. But shouldn’t we also focus on the programs that are smart investments and let that help make the decision?
I will not suggest that you should be happy to add $ 3.5 trillion to the already inflated national debt. I am not either. But I will defend most of the programs in the bill that are smart investments, and suggest that we focus on the long-term value of the debt incurred as much as the short-term amount.
Trish Zornio is a scientist, speaker and writer who has worked in some of the best universities and hospitals in the country. She wrote this article for Colorado Newsline, a sister site to the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where he first appeared.