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The D.C. disorder that’s sadder than SAD
Tom Purcell
Tom Purcell

Maybe Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is bringing me down - or not.

Overcast winter weather triggers SAD. Lack of exposure to sunlight can cause higher levels of melatonin and lower levels of serotonin in the brain, which can cause depression-like symptoms.

But then again, maybe it’s the news - and not SAD - that’s triggering my listlessness.

According to The Washington Post, the latest Congressional Budget Office estimates show the federal deficit “reached $1 trillion in 2019, for the first time since the Great Recession, and, under current law will average $1.3 trillion through 2030.” 

It gets worse: “Federal debt held by the public will grow from 81 percent of gross domestic product to a post-1946 record of 98 percent.”

Didn’t Republicans used to care about this spending stuff? Didn’t President Trump, as candidate Trump, promise to end the deficit in eight years?

This gets me so down, all I want to do is curl up in a blanket and sip hot toddies by a roaring fireplace.

Regardless of who’s president, Democrat or Republican, America has been on a serious spending spree.

Consider: When George W. Bush assumed office, the national debt was $5.7 trillion. He nearly doubled it in eight years to about $11 trillion.

President Obama added nearly $9 trillion to our debt load during his eight years in office.

President Trump is on track to add another $5 trillion to our debt during his first term.

Sure, I get it - partly. Entitlement-program spending continues to grow faster than revenue.

Some blame Republican tax cuts for reducing revenue, though overall tax receipts have increased and are higher than ever.

Spending is higher, too.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, tells The Hill that more than half of the deficit’s increase lately results from new laws that increase debt forecasts.

All I know is that the debt has jumped from $5.7 trillion in 2000 to more than $22 trillion in only 20 years - which makes me want to escape with a big plate of comfort food, digging into hot meatloaf and mashed potatoes smothered in gravy.

To put the magnitude of federal spending, deficit and debt into perspective, think of a typical family budget.

Say Mom and Dad earn $36,500 this year. That’s not a lot because, as food and housing costs keep going up, mom and dad will spend $47,500 this year to meet their obligations.

To address this year’s $11,000 shortfall, they borrow. Repaying that $11,000 on their small income will be awfully hard. But their situation is far worse than just this year’s shortfall.

Their greater challenge is that they’ve already borrowed $220,000 in prior years - and they keep piling on more debt every day.

How long such a borrowing charade can go on is anyone’s guess. But common sense says the whole thing will come crashing down sooner or later.   

This makes me want to take a long winter nap, hoping I’ll awaken to find that it was all just a bad dream.

But it’s not a dream - and SAD is not causing my sadness.

No, it’s ESD - Excessive Spending Disorder - that’s getting me down. And too few Americans seem to care that it is afflicting our politicians in Washington so heavily.

Which makes me even sadder.

Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Send comments to Tom at