Winter has arrived, and squirrels everywhere have enough to eat because they stored up food when it was more available in the warmer months.

We could learn a lot from those little rodent-sized brains. Instead of squirreling away our savings, we pig out on today’s and tomorrow’s resources.

This year, the federal government will run a deficit of about $970 billion, or 4.6 percent of the gross domestic product, despite a warm-weather economy that has been expanding for almost a decade. As a recent headline by the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget told us, “The deficit has never been this high when the economy was this strong.”

That bold statement refers to modern history. Since 1950, deficits have reached 4.6 percent of gross domestic product eight times. Four of those eight occurred during and after the Great Recession of a decade ago, and four occurred after the 1981-82 recession.

Before continuing, let’s define two easily confused terms. The “national debt” is the amount of debt the government has accrued since the 1830s, when it last paid off everything it owed. “Deficits” are the amount of new debt added each year.

The economy is nine-and-a-half years into an expansion. Under classic “Keynesian” economic theory named for economist John Maynard Keynes (and also the kind of economics practiced by squirrels), this is the part of the cycle when the government should be paying off debts it accrued when times were bad.

Instead, the national debt keeps growing. As of Dec. 27, Uncle Sam owned $21.845 trillion. That’s $66,555 for every American man, woman and child, including the new year’s babies some Arkansas newspapers might be featuring this week. When the Great Recession ended in June 2009, the national debt was $11.5 trillion, half what it is today. Two years ago, the federal budget deficit was “only” $666 billion. That was 3.5 percent of gross domestic product, and $300 billion less than it will be this year.

This year’s almost $1 trillion deficit is the result of many decisions made over many decades. No one person or party shoulders the blame. Still, yearly deficits were set to decline these next couple of years until the 2017-18 tax cuts and spending increases passed by Congress and signed by the president. As a result of those choices, Uncle Sam is collecting fewer nuts and gorging on more of the ones he finds.

No one can predict the future, but it’s not hard to anticipate what will happen. Eventually, the economy will slow. In fact, there already is a chill in the air, especially on Wall Street.

The economy eventually will slip into a recession, as it has nine times since June 1953. (That’s about once every seven years, and we’re nine-and-a-half years into this expansion.) When that happens, revenues will fall as people have less money, or no money, to spend. Congress will try to jump-start the economy by cutting taxes and/or increasing spending to meet human needs and maybe bail out some corporations. When that happens, the deficit will swell far past $1 trillion.

All this debt doesn’t just go away. By 2023, American taxpayers will spend more on interest than they do on the military. Part of that will go to foreign lenders, including China. Meanwhile, we're handing a massive credit card bill to our children and grandchildren, who had no say in any of this.

As I write this, part of the government is shut down, but not because of a dispute over this monstrous debt. Instead, it’s shut down over whether or not to spend $5 billion for a wall and other Southern border expenses.

That’s an important issue, but what about permanently indebting future generations Unfortunately, that’s something policymakers can agree about, or at least agree to disagree, regardless of the weather.

And we think we’re so much smarter than squirrels.

Steve Brawner is a syndicated columnist in Arkansas. Email him at brawnersteve@mac.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevebrawner.