Federal deficit question for presidential candidates

chart of U.S. federal revenue and spending as % of GDP source Tax Foundation

The U.S. economy is now at full employment. You can see it all around you, help wanted signs, businesses struggling with less than their preferred level of staffing, even wages rising a bit, though it is surprising how long that has taken to be the case. This is not a time to be running government deficits. Sensible economic policy is that we should be at or near a balanced budget at full employment. In fact, the Republican party has publicly used to say that it stood for even when we were not at full employment. They said this loud and clear all throughout the Obama presidency, when in fact that was clearly a time when government deficits were called for in order to help get the economy to recovery from the great recession of 2009 and beyond.

It is hopeless to think that Trump, if he were reelected, that he would have the correct response to getting the government budget under control and on a safe path. He's the one that pushed through a tax cut that helped raise the government deficit to unprecedented heights at a time of full employment.

So we must turn our hopes on a realistic policy to tame the federal government deficits to the Democrats. Here is a question that should be posed to each of the Democrat candidates for president. "The federal government deficit is at historic highs at a time of full employment and these deficits are projected to continue over the next 10 years and beyond, and God forbid if we were to have a serious recession that would make all this worse. Obviously, this is unsustainable. Federal revenues are at about 17 percent of GDP, our nation's income, while federal expenditures are at about 21 percent of GDP. They need to be brought into line, especially while the economy is at full employment. This is extraordinarily difficult given pressures for spending on health care, infrastructure, maintaining Social Security benefits and spending on the social safety net and combating climate change. How would you attack this difficult problem? Would you emphasize tax increases, spending cuts - if so, on what would you cut?

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