The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a respected nonpartisan group, reminded us yet again Tuesday that federal spending plans and debt levels are unsustainable. Lawmakers should get serious about debt reduction now — before it’s too late.

Counting only debt held by the public — which is some 20% lower than total government debt, including intragovernmental transfers — CRFB says that absent strong corrective action, the federal debt is likely to reach 125% of gross domestic product within a decade. Most nations are in a serious danger zone for economic collapse when debt exceeds 100% of GDP.

A lot of this is the fault of former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. In raw numbers (not GDP), and not blaming either for crises beyond their immediate control (the 2008 financial crisis and the coronavirus pandemic), the evidence of their outlandish spending is indisputable. Obama allowed the national debt to grow by $6.625 trillion in the seven years between the end of 2009 and the end of 2016. In the next three years, before the pandemic hit, Trump allowed it to grow by another $2.748 trillion. But regardless of who or what is to blame, the simple fact is that since Obama took office in January of 2009, the debt compared to GDP has grown from less than 44% to 99.6% as this year began.

Then, President Joe Biden and the Democratic Congress went on another spendathon, making long-term prospects even worse.

For historical comparisons, only as a result of (and in the 15-year aftermath of) World War II has U.S. debt-to-GDP ever exceeded 50%. In other words, today’s bad numbers aren’t just a small anomaly but a potentially catastrophic break with ordinary fiscal practice and common sense. The catastrophe would come if major creditors (including foreign nations or foreign bondholders) try to “call in” the debts all at once, causing a panic akin to what happened in the Great Depression and in the 2008 financial crisis.

The question then becomes what to do about all this. As I noted in a Feb. 15 column, the CRFB, the Heritage Foundation, and I are among the many who have proposed numerous ideas to stem the spending riptide that threatens to drown us all. The semi-good news is that small adjustments in government spending formulas combined with mild discretionary spending caps could keep today’s debt levels from metastasizing quite as badly as CRFB projects. At least such an approach would buy time for more substantial reforms.

Better still would be if Congress and the president show the discipline to push the debt-to-GDP ratio actually lower, below today’s red danger zone — but with the cash-spewing Biden as president, that’s an extremely unlikely proposition.

In the long run, though, considerably more substantial reforms will indeed be necessary to avoid the even worse calamity of debt that faces the U.S. economy in the following quarter-century after the 10-year time window CRFB just highlighted. By some analyses, the future unfunded liabilities of the U.S. government could reach $162 trillion, which is so big as to defy ready comprehension.

Lawmakers must spend the next two and a half years reining in their own profligacy, at least a little. After that, though, only major systemic reforms can save us ... If the 2024 presidential campaign does not produce a new chief executive expressly dedicated, with public buy-in, to such major systemic reforms … well, then, we’re doomed.