COVID-19 is focusing attention on another epidemic in the United States. It is the national debt, now at approximately $24.3 trillion. To that, of course, will have to be added the at least $2 trillion in federal funding to save the economy from being another victim of the virus.
Think about that number. Even at $24.3 trillion, it amounts to more than $72,000 for every man, woman and child in the nation. For a family of four, the bill will be $300,000 within a few months.
What do we get for that? Nothing. It represents money the federal government has spent already, without revenue to cover it.
Some critics of big government argued that the $2 trillion CARES Act should not have been enacted, because it would add to the national debt. That would have been a ridiculous stance, of course. COVID-19 is the kind of emergency in which deficit spending is imperative to safeguard the economy and thus, future revenue for government.
Very little of the national debt was built up in response to real emergencies, however. We know the debt is primarily a function of “entitlement” spending for programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.
Receipts from such programs are nowhere near covering their costs. Somehow, we have to find a way to get the scales nearer to balance.
Now is not the time to be worrying about the national debt, some argue. They are wrong. Now is precisely the time our unpaid bills should be on our minds — or, more precisely, those of our elected representatives in Congress.
COVID-19 has made it obvious that the United States has not been doing enough to prepare for and combat emerging diseases. An effective mechanism for doing that needs to be devised.
Fans of big government — and, of course, the bureaucracy itself — will see that as an opportunity. In the wake of the pandemic, they will seek massive new funding for many purposes that have little or nothing to do with battling disease.
For once, they need to be told to get lost. We Americans cannot afford to throw money indiscriminately at our problems. New funding for science simply must be laser-focused on that purpose, not on more entitlements, more crony capitalism and more bureaucrats.