John Block: Debt

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

Here is what I read in the Wall Street Journal: “Deficit financing has become the mother’s milk of politics. Each party is giving the other its wish list with all the bells and whistles included and asking future generations to pick up the tab.”

The Congressional Budget Office projects the budget deficit will grow another $804 billion this year. Our debt today is already more than $20 trillion. As we look to the future, we can expect our debt to grow by an additional $1 trillion dollars each year. That is not a responsible way to govern.

Now, I think our tax cuts and growing economy can trim those projected deficits back. I hope. Remember when President Trump signed the $1.3 trillion spending bill, he was very angry and he threatened to veto the bill.  He said he would never sign a bill like that again.

The Republican leadership, along with President Trump, is looking for a way to rescind some of the spending in the omnibus budget bill. There is a way. It hasn’t been used in 25 years. Decide on the cuts that can be passed with a simple majority vote in both the House and Senate. President Trump can then forward the rescission package to the Congress.

Then, it is up to the Congress to pass it, and it is a done deal. That sounds so simple, but is it possible to get a majority to agree on what to cut and how much? I can’t imagine they would dare touch the so-called entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, which make up 70% of the spending.  So, let’s put the rest of the spending on the chopping block. I would like for them to do that, but I’m not optimistic.

We all have to admit that giving something to the voters is how to buy their vote. Taking away from voters loses votes. If you want to get reelected, pass out the candy. Don’t take it away.

Remember, we have an election this November. Will Members that are up for reelection be willing to deny benefits to their electorate? Tough choice. To be fair, would Republicans be willing to cut back any of the near-record increase in defense spending?  Not likely.

The other way to deal with the debt would be to raise taxes. That’s not going to happen in this election year.

John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill.  If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, visit

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