On the National Debt, the U.S. Has a Leadership Deficit, Too

The United States will soon break a record that has stood for 78 years. Because the record has to do with federal debt, however, this is not a cause for celebration. If present trends continue, the debt in 2027 will equal 106.2 percent of annual economic output, according to the latest forecast from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. That would exceed the all-time high level of 106.1 percent of GDP in 1946, a year when the United States was still demobilizing from World War II and had not begun paying down the massive borrowing needed to fund a global military effort.

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Nearly every part of this latest CBO report is alarming. Most troubling is how much the debt picture has worsened since the CBO’s last estimate in February. The budget deficit for fiscal 2024, which ends Sept. 30, is now expected to be $1.9 trillion — up 27 percent from the previous CBO projection. It is basically double the pre-pandemic level even though the nation is not at war and no longer in a health crisis. And the debt is growing rapidly amid unexpectedly strong economic growth, which usually helps bring deficits down...

Ideally, Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump will be asked about the debt in the upcoming CNN presidential debate. We don’t expect a real answer. But we do expect that the eventual winner, whoever it may be, will have to deal with this issue.

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