Twenty years. We will be there before a child born this week can legally have his first beer. Without changes, every penny of taxes collected by the federal government will fund entitlements, the drivers of our debt, and the interest on the debt driven by entitlements. No money for national defense. Not a cent for safeguarding our nuclear stockpile or energy research. Nothing for infrastructure, welfare for the truly needy, unemployment for those displaced in the changing economy.

External factors could slow slightly the spinning of the debt clock numbers (strong economic growth) or speed it up (higher interest rates). But there is nothing at all under serious consideration in Republican-run Washington to reverse them.

President Donald Trump mentioned debt only once in his speech to a joint session of Congress last week—and then only to blame Barack Obama for failing to take the challenge seriously. While Trump has suggested that he favors some cuts in discretionary domestic programs and insignificant line-items like foreign aid (roughly 1 percent of the federal budget), he has consistently opposed reforms to the entitlement programs at the heart of the problem, once predicting that even proposing reforms would be “political suicide.”

Trump’s view reflected the conventional wisdom. It is wrong.