(Nov. 13)  Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford surely was the “wrong man” to challenge President Trump for reelection to the presidency, but that shouldn’t keep us from embracing the message he tried to sell — the need for fiscal discipline. Lack of attention to this question is putting the economy at risk of imploding in horrid fashion.

Even if Trump seemed more vulnerable among Republican voters, Sanford never would have had a chance. Sanford, in person, can be one of the most engaging people in modern politics, but he’s also one of the flakiest. His dereliction of duty for an extramarital fling was emblematic of those tendencies. His long record shows that his commitment to fiscal discipline is real, but his flakiness makes him as hurtful to that cause as he is helpful.

Nonetheless, Sanford’s statement ending his campaign was one all Americans should heed.

“What’s needed here is simply a national conversation on whether or not we believe in math,” Sanford said. “Ours does not add up in Washington, and continued denial here could end the American civilization and the dreams that come with it.” And: “More than anything, we need a debate about our debt and how we pay for this political season’s many grand promises and the ones already accumulated in Washington. We also need a robust debate on trade and tariffs …”

The simple fact is that both in the United States and worldwide, both governmental debt and private-sector debt are at their highest levels in non-World-War history.

In the U.S., the total federal debt (not just the “debt held by the public,” which is a separate measure) already exceeds 100% of gross domestic product. Anything over 100% is in a danger zone, and we’re headed toward the 120% that is a sort of super-duper danger zone. The single-year deficit this past year of $984 billion was the largest in non-wartime, non-recession U.S. history, and is projected to continue rising.

Trump’s stewardship of federal spending, or rather complete lack of stewardship, is at fault. …

[The rest of this column is here.]


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