Commentary

Republican House Increased Debt $7.9 Trillion in 8 Years

Terence P. Jeffrey
By Terence P. Jeffrey | January 9, 2019 | 8:39 AM EST

Rep. Paul Ryan and House Speaker John Boehner, March 19, 2013. (Getty Images/T.J. Kirkpatrick)

The recently deposed Republican majority increased the federal debt by $7.9 trillion in the eight years it controlled the House of Representatives.

At the close of business on Jan. 4, 2011, the day before the Republicans took control of the House, the debt was $14,014,049,043,294.41, according to the Treasury.

On Jan. 3, 2019, the last day before the Republicans turned control of the House back to the Democrats, the debt closed at $21,929,258,046,653.58.

So, under the Republican House majorities in four Congresses, the debt climbed $7,915,209,003,359.17.

That works out to approximately $989,401,125,420 per year, or $2,710,688,015 per day, or $112,945,334 per hour, or $1,882,422 per minute.

In fact, under the Republican-controlled House, the federal debt increased at an average rate of $31,374 per second.

Some Republicans may claim they should not be blamed for the massive increase in the federal debt during the eight years they controlled the House. They may say: "For four of those eight years, the Democrats controlled the Senate." Or: "For six of those eight years, Barack Obama was president."

But the Constitution says, "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law."

And no law may be enacted unless it passes the House.

A Republican-majority House approved every one of the federal spending laws enacted over the past eight years.

Not only that, but all of the spending laws enacted since Jan. 20, 2017, when President Donald Trump was inaugurated, have been approved by a Republican-majority House, a Republican-majority Senate and a Republican president.

How did Republicans do in controlling the debt during that limited time when they held all three elected branches of the federal government?

The Republicans controlled the House, Senate and White House for a span of 714 days, which equals 102 weeks — or just two weeks short of two full years.

At the close of business on Jan. 19, 2017, the day before Trump was inaugurated, the debt was $19,944,429,217,106.77. And again, at the close of business on Jan. 3, 2019, the last day the Republicans controlled the House, the debt was $21,929,258,046,653.58. During that 102-week Republican reign, the debt climbed $1,984,828,829,546.81.

That means that under the all-Republican government, the debt rose approximately $19,459,106,172 per week, or $2,779,872,310 per day, or $115,828,013 per hour, or $1,930,467 per minute, or $32,174 per second.

That $32,714-per-second increase in the debt under the all-Republican government that reigned from Trump's inauguration until last week exceeds the $31,374-per-second increase in the debt the nation saw over the entire eight-year span of the Republican-majority House.

Some liberal critics of the Republicans might argue that the reason the debt increased so rapidly when the Republicans controlled the House is not because Congress spent too much but because it taxed too little.

They would be wrong.

In fiscal 2011, the year the Republican majority took control of the House, the federal government collected $2,561,779,260,000 in total taxes (in constant September 2018 dollars). In fiscal 2018, the last full fiscal year when the Republicans controlled the House, the federal government collected $3,328,745,000,000 (in constant September 2018 dollars).

Under the Republican-majority House, real federal tax revenues increased by $766,965,740,000 — or 29.9 percent.

Individual income taxes alone hit $1,683,537,000,000 in fiscal 2018 — an all-time record for the United States.

Yet even though real federal tax revenues climbed by 29.9 percent over the last eight fiscal years, and even though individual income taxes hit a record high, the government did not collect enough in taxes to pay for the government's spending.

The federal debt did not climb by nearly a trillion dollars a year under a Republican-controlled House because the government did not tax enough. It climbed because the government spent too much.

In August 2008, two years before the Republicans won back their majority in the House, this writer interviewed then-Rep. Paul Ryan, who was the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee.

I asked, "If our country, if the federal government of the United States, stays on the fiscal path it is currently following, is the government going to go bankrupt down the road?"

"Yes," said Ryan.

"We know that for a fact," he said. "All the actuaries, all the objective scorekeepers of the federal government are predicting this. So, this much we know. What we know is our government is growing at an unsustainable pace, and it will overwhelm our economy's ability to pay the bills."

"What is happening is that these three entitlement programs — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — are going to basically crowd out the rest of the federal budget," Ryan said.

In fiscal 2018, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement, two federal departments spent more than a trillion dollars each. Health and Human Services, which includes the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, spent $1,120,500,000,000. The Social Security Administration spent $1,039,902,000,000.

The combined $2,160,402,000,000 these two departments spent equaled 52.6 percent of the federal government's $4,107,741,000,000 in total spending.

 

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