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The reason the debt is so high? The U.S. is at war — with itself.

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Represented as a line graph, historical statistics on the public debt of the United States look like a jagged mountain range.

There are peaks where the debt grew to pay for each of the nation’s wars or international conflicts, from the fight for independence to the late Cold War arms race under President Ronald Reagan. The subsequent peace dividends appear as debt-decline valleys. Major increases also occur during the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Great Recession of 2008-2009.

What accounts for the current ramp-up in the debt, at a time of relative peace and steady if unspectacular economic expansion? On June 25 the Congressional Budget Office reported that, under the most politically realistic forecast, the debt will hit 105 percent of gross domestic product by 2029, a level not seen since World War II.

Obviously, federal spending exceeds revenue, as it has every fiscal year since 2002. On a deeper level, though, the explanation is that the United States is at war — with itself. It is manifestly not a shooting war such as the one between 1861 and 1865, which drove the federal debt to a then-record of just over 30 percent of GDP.

Yet polarized and mutually distrustful Republicans and Democrats are engaged in a Cold Civil War, and have been for years, even before the Trump presidency. The impasse has rendered impossible the compromises and trade-offs — tax increases and spending cuts, or some........

© Washington Post