By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Whatchamacolumn: A modest proposal for financial sanity

This week, President Biden, Speaker McCarthy and a cast of featured and bit actors are playing games with a financial nuclear weapon aimed at the heart of America’s economy. Tuesday’s face-to-face meeting was an opportunity to negotiate something we all know is needed, but it ended with both sides trying to walk on water in the same old concrete shoes.

Here’s a modest five-point plan: Eliminate partisan politics from the simple mathematics of overall budget management; increase the debt limit and pay existing bills to avoid becoming an international deadbeat dad; balance the federal budget, or at least get close, with equal parts spending reductions and tax increases; take common sense actions to prevent Social Security insolvency; agree to continue overall spending cuts so tax revenues can provide a surplus for debt reduction and future needs.

And one more thing: Warn all candidates for the 2024 presidential election that if they don’t support the agreements, it will be reason enough for Americans to bury their political aspirations.

Basic numbers of deficits and debt expose a nation run amok. Let’s start with annual budget deficits:

Our annual budget shortfall averaged $1.5 billion from 1947 to 1967, skyrocketing to an average of almost $140 billion from 1968 to 1997. Briefly, budget surpluses averaged about $160 billion from 1998 to 2001, but since then the annual deficit has averaged almost $900 billion.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, deficit spending hit $3.1 trillion in 2020 and $2.8 trillion in 2021. Current estimates suggest $2 trillion annual deficits for years to come.

Deficit spending has required Congress to approve regular increases in our national debt limit: $300 billion in 1945; $1 trillion in 1981; $4 trillion in 1990; $8 trillion in 2004; $20 trillion in 2017; and $31.4 trillion in 2021.

Here’s an interesting side note: Conservatives blame deficits on out-of-control spending; liberals lay blame at the feet of major tax cuts enacted by Republicans. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if partisans on both sides admitted that budget management requires an appropriate balance of revenue and expense?

Just for perspective, here’s what 1 trillion means: In dollars, $235,000 for every man, woman and child in Oregon; in $100 bills, a stack 631 miles high; in words, perhaps most distressing to hear, 2.5 billion Whatchamacolumns at current length.

It would be political and financial lunacy for Congress to default on existing legal obligations, and only slightly less onerous to play political chicken to the edge of the cliff. So, Mr. President, even if you can’t quite restore the soul of America, you could at least help re-establish some financial sanity.

News-Register Publisher Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.


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