DISCLAIMER: The following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of KSL Newsradio or its ownership.
Mark Sanford, the former congressman and South Carolina governor, is pondering a run for the White House by challenging President Donald Trump in a Republican primary. He’s setting his sights on tackling the national debt of $22 trillion — $66,907 for every person living in the U.S. He joined Boyd Matheson on KSL’s “Inside Sources” Monday afternoon. Matheson said he got to know Sanford when he was chief of staff for Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. “Sanford has a really passionate concern for the financial security of the country,” said Matheson.
Sanford said no Democratic presidential candidates are talking about the debt, and it’s time someone did because he said a “financial hurricane is coming our way.”
“Nobody’s talking about it. I watched two Democratic presidential debates, and there was not one sentence allocated to debt, deficit and spending from a moderator’s standpoint or a candidate’s standpoint,” he said. “We all need to be talking about this as Americans.
Matheson pointed out that many U.S. military experts have said the national debt is the greatest security threat.
In response, Sanford said America’s highest-ranking military official, Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the debt the greatest threat to American civilization.
A recent Gallup poll found that terrorism and the federal government debt are tied as the most worrisome perceived threats to Americans, with healthcare costs ranking a close third.
“I’ve taken a close look at the numbers, and it’s alarming. I believe we are on a knife’s edge. We can’t wait four or five years to deal with our debt, deficits and spending,” Sanford said.
The federal budget deficit grew 77% in the first four months of fiscal 2019 compared with the same period last year, the Treasury Department said.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the country faces default in September unless Congress raises the $22-trillion debt limit.
“I think the Republican Party, of which I’ve been apart of for a long time, has abandoned its conversation on the importance of financial reality,” Sanford said. “If nobody says something, we’re going to wait until the next presidential election cycle to have this needed conversation on where we go next as a country on debt, spending and the deficits that are accruing.”
Sanford said it is not an issue for our children or grandchildren.
“These faultlines are going to show up soon,” he said. “We do not have the chance to wait four years to have this debate.”
In fiscal year 2018, the U.S. government spent more on interest than it did on veterans’ benefits, transportation and administration of justice. In 2023, the U.S. will spend more on interest than defense (about $650 billion in 2019).
The Congressional Budget Office forecasts federal debt to rise from 78% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019 to 92% in 2029 and 144% in 2049.
“Now you tell me,” Sanford said, “how any civilization perpetuates itself in spending more on interest than national defense.”
No tax increase will solve that problem, Matheson pointed out, agreeing with Sanford that the rising national debt is something that will need to be dealt with in the next couple of years.
Sanford left Congress in 2018 after losing his primary after Trump backed his opponent, state Sen. Katie Arrington, who went on to lose in the general election to Rep. Joe Cunningham. Arrington ripped Sanford over his lack of loyalty to Trump and attacked him in ads for a much-publicized extramarital affair with an Argentinian journalist.
For six days in June 2009, Sanford’s whereabouts were unknown. Later, he admitted that he had been in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair.
There is no conversation
Sanford said he will take the next month to consider a primary challenge to Trump.
“I’m in the soul-searching process right now,” he said.
Matheson asked Sanford the question he always asks someone contemplating running for office: What is it that’s going to make all that pain and suffering and misery worth it, even if you lose?
Sanford’s response: “I don’t think in the present political paradigm there’s any beating of Donald Trump. Question is, by running could you elevate and raise the level of debate we’re not having about debt and deficit. Literally, there is no conversation. This storm is coming at us faster than we think.”
Sanford said in the days before a hurricane the South Carolina coast would be at its most beautiful. As governor, he would issue evacuations order, but people would resist going inland, saying, “But it’s beautiful out there.”
The looming debt and deficit are “the same thing,” he said.
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