DONALD TRUMP CERTAINLY knows how to drive the news cycle. When archivists of the future pore through the headlines from September 2017, they will see not only the real-world calamities of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, but such Trump-driven ephemera as calling the leader of North Korea "Rocket Man," accusing old sparring partner Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) of delivering "a tremendous slap in the face to the Republican Party," and sending the entire country into a culture-war tizzy over the once-small number of professional football players who kneel in protest during "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Jesus taught us that "ye shall know them by their fruits," but as the Republican-led 115th Congress stumbles from one legislative nonstarter to the next, it's becoming clearer that the president's main fruits are his tweets. It took Barack Obama five years to get to the "pen and phone" executive-action phase of his presidency; it has taken Trump around five months. "It's really caught on. It's really caught on," the president reportedly bragged to GOP lawmakers on Day 5 of his fabricated National Anthem feud with the National Football League.
One subject that hasn't received much of the president's attention, even though it dominated Republican politics as recently as four years ago, is the national debt. In fact, the month of September included some of the grimmest milestones in recent memory for those of us who prefer government to pay its own way, rather than incur massive debt overhangs that dampen economic growth and impoverish the future. To wit:
On September 6, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey (Irma and Maria had not yet hit), only three members of the House of Representatives--Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.)--voted against spending $8 billion on hurricane victims because the bill did not include offsetting cuts. That compares to the 179 Republicans and one Democrat who voted against a $60 billion aid package after Superstorm Sandy back in January 2013.
On September 8, Trump signed into law a deal he forged with Democratic congressional leaders to raise the debt ceiling from $19.84 trillion to $20.16 trillion.
On the grim anniversary day of September 11, the nation's debt clock crossed the ominous $20 trillion threshold. Most economists agree that growth becomes dampened after a country's ratio of debt to gross domestic product creeps higher than 90 percent; we've been north of 100 percent for some...