GOP's budget-busting policies are downright shameful

GOP's budget-busting policies are downright shameful

The Congressional Budget Office recently reported that the federal deficit jumped 20 percent in the first 10 months of the fiscal year, an eye-popping increase that was largely a result of two factors: the short-term impact of tax cuts and the big-spending agreements the Republican-led Congress has been passing with almost no dissent.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, voices on the left have begun caring about the deficit again — a chorus that is likely to continue for as long as they are in the minority. But despite the inevitable cries of hypocrisy against the few Republicans who voted for tax cuts and against big spending, there is a wide range of opinion among Republicans on how much to care about the short-term deficit impact of tax cuts.

ADVERTISEMENT

Committed supply-siders, for example, will argue that long-term growth will more than make up for any shortfalls, but most Republicans don’t truly fit into that bucket. Many instead have made a calculation, perhaps a political one, that keeping more money in people’s pockets is more important than the potential harms of deficits.

 

Since we cannot mathematically tax our way to balance, why shouldn’t taxpayers get a break in the meantime?

But regardless of which camp one falls into, the idea that we have to pick between lower taxes and lower deficits is a false one. In fact, there is a straightforward means of keeping deficits in check while reducing taxes, but that option is largely being ignored despite years of promises from Republican leadership.

It’s hard to find a Republican who ran for office without calling to reform and reduce government spending — almost as hard as it is to find any now who seem to care as their party continues to ratchet up the spending.

There’s no shortage of bills that have passed, or are on the horizon, with massive price tags: last spring’s omnibus spending package, relief for farmers hurt by trade wars as well as a massive farm bill likely to become law soon.

The latest National Defense Authorization Act was signed on Monday, and there are few signs that upcoming Department of Defense appropriations will include many reforms.

The level and rate of high spending has seemed to shock even President TrumpDonald John TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency MORE, who signed and promptly blasted the $1.3 trillion spending bill in March of this year, saying he nevertheless had no choice because military spending was on the line.

Herein lies the other, bigger problem. Congress simply doesn’t budget anymore, much less thoughtfully. Because the broken budget process has proven impossible to complete in time, lawmakers have become a rubber stamp for whatever big-spending deal leadership can cobble together, which they pass at the last minute with almost no one willing to say no.

And if reforming discretionary spending is becoming a distant dream, doing anything to fix the two-thirds of the budget that is on autopilot seems all but impossible.

This problem has existed under Republican and Democratic administrations, but the closer Washington inches toward insolvency, the less defensible it becomes.

Eventually — or much sooner than that — this irresponsibility will have severe consequences, as major programs simply run out of money, and many years of kicking the can create unavoidable pain.

In just 30 years, interest on the debt is projected to be a bigger liability than Social Security and national defense, and in a best-case scenario — with a steady economy and no unexpected military ventures — the country will see priorities squeezed with little in the way of a backup plan.

The fact that this situation is happening to begin with is a shame; the fact that Republicans who have spent years promising to fix the debt are at the helm as it inches closer to crisis is nothing short of shameless hypocrisy.

Jonathan Bydlak is the founder and president of the Coalition to Reduce Spending and the creator of SpendingTracker.org.