President Trump is finishing his first year in office strong. Not only was historic tax reform passed through the legislature and signed into law, but in the midst of that legislation was the repeal of the individual mandate that made up the crux of Obama’s Affordable Care Act. In one fell swoop an administration that had accomplished fairly little in regards to major legislative accomplishments up to that point had enacted not only one, but two of Republicans biggest legislative promises to the voters. While I am just as giddy as a schoolboy that many hard working Americans will reap the benefits of a doubled standard deduction and that America will finally have a corporate tax rate low enough to be on par with most of industrialized Europe, all legislation comes with trade-offs and in this case it is a trade-off we need to talk about, the deficit.
While the pro-growth supply-siders of the Reagan era may have prioritized increased GDP and economic expansion over addressing deficits, modern conservatives may not have that same luxury. At its highest the National Debt under Reagan sat at less than $3 trillion, today we are faced with a national debt of more than $20.5 trillion. While tax reform, economic growth, and being globally competitive are important we cannot turn a blind eye to the eventual debt bomb that is coming our way. For that reason, it is imperative that this historic tax reform is followed up with one of the heaviest lifts in American politics, entitlement reform.
Bernie Sander and the Democrats spent a lot of airtime attempting to scare people into believing that passage of the tax bill would almost automatically mean entitlement reform would follow. I am scared that entitlement reform won’t follow and our debt problem will remain unaddressed. During the 2016 Republican Presidential primaries, one of my biggest issues with candidate Donald Trump was his unwillingness to reform entitlements. We can talk about cutting spending and streamlining government all we want, but unless you address Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid everything else is just nibbling around the edges.
I am glad we got tax reform. I am optimistic about the bill and hope that it will put more money into the hands of hard-working Americans. I thought Democrats who attacked the bill on the basis of what it would do to balloon the deficit were hypocrites who never cared about deficits before they became a useful club to bludgeon Republicans with. I believe that the economic growth generated by tax reform will reduce the projected deficit numbers that many were using to scare people away from the tax bill. That being said, we do have a deficits and debt problem, there will be an eventual economic downturn, and we need to take major action to get America’s house in order financially, and the only way to do that is through reforming entitlements.
Entitlement reform won’t be easy and I worry that there is not the will to get it done either in the White House or in Congress. Mark my words though, if we fail to act on this issue we will pay the price for it, maybe not soon, but someday our unsustainable national debt will come back to haunt us. Now is the time to take action.
Jacob Vandever is political activist, lifelong Oregonian, and proud Oregon State graduate.