Hamilton’s Blessing

Interest in the U.S. national debt seems to have diminished. Its importance has not.

Even with extraordinarily low interest rates, interest on the debt takes up one out of ten dollars of federal expenditures. If rates rise to more normal levels, even if the debt stabilizes, interest on the debt could easily double or triple.

Recently we came across a book titled Hamilton’s Blessing about the history of America’s debt going back to the founding fathers. It’s instructive that in earlier years the debt ran up during wars and crises and in between times was paid down.

Except for three years at the end of President Clinton’s term, that hasn’t happened in more than half a century.

While not an imminent danger, no initiative in Washington shows promise for getting this problem under control. The Tea Party made some noise but disappeared during the great budget compromise of 2015, when spending ramped up again.

At the least, the government should be extending the term of the outstanding debt while rates remain extraordinarily low.

The debt need not be a crushing burden but needs to be dealt with in all its dimensions in an intelligent way before it becomes an insoluble problem.