Americans should not be celebrating the spending deal agreed to by congressional leaders and President Donald Trump.
They should be appalled and insist Washington stop spending money we do not have.
When Trump was campaigning in 2016, the national debt was hurtling toward the $20 trillion milestone. As is his style, he made an audacious claim: that he would oversee the elimination of that debt in just eight years.
What followed was just the opposite. Rather than using a time of economic growth to balance the budget, our political leaders have racked up as much as possible on the nation’s credit card.
The president is now said to think that the national debt is nothing to worry about because, according to an anonymous source, the consequences might not come until after he is out of office. His opponents in next year’s election seem similarly unconcerned about the need to be responsible with taxpayer dollars.
Three big decisions prior to the current deal precipitated today’s sky-high deficits.
First was the aftermath of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. A budgeting rule known as PAYGO dictates that Congress must balance out any new increases in spending or reductions in revenue. Since the tax bill cut taxes, Congress should have followed it with sensible spending reforms.
Instead, Congress waved away the PAYGO requirement. Democrats, and all too many Republicans, have no taste for reducing the amount of spending power currently centralized in Washington.
The second decision came shortly after the first. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 massively increased spending limits, added a huge amount of questionable emergency spending, and suspended the debt limit for a year.
The third decision has been an ongoing one: a refusal by leaders on both sides to take their jobs seriously.
Congressional appropriators feel entitled to that new, higher amount of spending. As a result, key senators refused to start work on spending bills until they could be assured of access to more taxpayer funds.
Meanwhile, budget resolutions are becoming a thing of the past. Rather than reckoning with taxing and spending levels in a transparent manner, the swamp prefers to hash out details behind closed doors and force pre-packaged deals on rank-and-file members.
Yet worst of all is a continued unwillingness by the House, Senate, and the White House to address the biggest aspect of America’s fiscal policy: the unsustainable growth of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
These programs represent a majority of current spending and the vast majority of expected spending growth. Reforming these programs would take hard work, but this is precisely the type of responsibility that comes with the power of federal elected office.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was reported as saying that “nobody has lost an election by spending too much money” in regard to acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s effort to pay for the spending deal.
This strongly anti-conservative comment did not generate backlash within the Senate caucus.
There is a mindset in Washington that issues such as disaster relief and strengthening the military are “too important” to worry about paying for. This has it exactly backward. If something is truly important, it should be the easiest thing to prioritize.
A family that does not budget for mortgage, utilities, property taxes, and homeowners insurance is setting itself up for disaster. Similarly, when politicians cannot put aside pet projects and boondoggles to ensure that the country is on good financial footing, they put our future at risk.
In spite of all of these problems, it is not too late for elected officials from both parties to do the right thing for the sake of America. They can choose a path of limited government, spending that focuses on core responsibilities, and bringing the debt under control.
Until that happens, constituents will need to hold their feet to the fire.