Publisher’s Perspective

By Tim Douglass, Publisher of the Pope County Tribune

National debt has again become an issue at the federal level.  Congress has to raise the debt limit or default on what we owe as a country.  Failure to agree on a higher limit would likely have big economic implications for ordinary Americans, the U.S. economy and the rest of the world, economists tell us.

The nation is in debt simply because it spends more than it raises in taxes or other revenues. The national debt has increased regularly every year for decades.  The debt is a result of U.S. borrowing through the sale of U.S. Treasury bonds across the globe. The federal government uses the money raised through those bond sales to pay financial obligations and interest on the national debt. Due to the global market for these Treasury bonds, a default “would have very serious consequences for the financial systems around the world,” said University of Minnesota economics professor V.V. Chari.

How did we get here?

Existing spending promises — including Social Security and Medicare — have pushed the nation’s borrowing needs toward the debt limit, according to Politifact, a non-profit, non-partisan journalism fact-checking company owned by the nonprofit Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

The debt has grown significantly in the last few years, because of the GOP-backed tax cuts enacted in 2017, a series of regular spending bills passed with bipartisan support, several large relief bills designed to ease the coronavirus pandemic’s impact, and several big bills passed over the past two years, such as the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the broad domestic spending package known as the Inflation Reduction Act.

According to Politifact, “when Barack Obama was inaugurated, the debt was $10.6 trillion. On Donald Trump’s Inauguration Day, it stood at $19.9 trillion. And when Joe Biden took office, it was at $27.8 trillion.”

On Jan. 19 of this year, the United States officially hit its legal debt limit of almost $31.4 trillion.

What’s the short-term answer?  Probably to raise the debt limit, but not before we have a lot of political wrangling about government spending.

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We were somewhat perplexed with a recent letter to the editor accusing a local columnist of misleading and biased information in a column written for this newspaper almost two years ago.

The letter espoused “truthful and historically correct facts,” on the Jan. 6 violence, but then provided mostly partisan opinions with no attribution or verification.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but when disputing another’s opinion on the same topic, it becomes important to identify sources and/or verify  the information used. That’s what good, viable research does.  Instead, the letter was remarkably similar to a transcript from a past show done by Tucker Carlson, a commentator for Fox News.

That was what was perplexing about the letter.  It came from a local resident who is normally very good and thorough at researching and writing about local historic events.

My two cents (worth about that much): Where was that thorough research and attribution of sources for such opinions on an event that has been the topic of media discussion as well as thoroughly researched by a Senate committee.  The Jan. 6, 2021 attack at the Capitol has become one of the country’s most government and media-vetted events since the 9-11 terrorist attacks.  There’s no shortage of verifiable information available.  Choosing to blame the messenger with the blanket statement again “the national media” just isn’t enough.    

Apparently character, or lack of, is not an issue for the U.S. Congress.  By now, most of us have probably heard about George Santos – the guy from New York who lied about basically everything in order to get elected to Congress.  Not only did he lie, he faced overwhelming evidence that he did lie and still believed he should serve in Congress.

Then we learned how far House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was willing to defend him too. Not only did McCarthy let him get sworn in (despite many Republicans calling for him to step down),  he also announced that he would be giving Santos Two committees to sit on.

That’s right – the con-artist who lied about his business experience (among other things) will now be overseeing small business and science and tech policy for our country. How ironic.  And, I guess, how typical.