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Assault on America, Day 47: Will the ruling class ever get serious about cutting spending?

federal debt
It felt weird advocating for Congress to spend more money.

Speaking of the recent back-and-forth between President Trump, congressional Democrats and the semi-hopeless Republican leadership, all (supposedly) “negotiating” over funding for a physical barrier along this country’s southern border with Mexico. Hoping to protect their wide-open spigot of potential new voters, Democrats maintained that a wall was too expensive and a waste of money since it wouldn’t work to solve the illegal immigration problem.

Like Democrats really care about saving a few pennies, right? Actually, they’re plenty frugal when it comes to starving the U.S. military or ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) of sufficient means to carry out their missions. The two parties haggled over defense spending levels for decades, with Republicans under Trump seemingly winning the contemporary struggle thanks to a Republican congressional majority the past two years and a willingness to write fat federal checks with pre-approved debt-ceiling busting signatures.

In the big picture, Republicans aren’t much -- if any -- better than Democrats on spending, as most of the nation’s biggest debt increases have been realized under GOP presidents (from Reagan to George H.W. Bush to George W. Bush). Every campaign cycle, Republican candidates claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility but then surrender it when political reality smacks them in the jaw.

Only when Democrat chief executives inhabit the White House do GOP congressional leaders put extra emphasis on holding the financial line. How else did Big Bubba Bill Clinton nearly achieve balanced budgets during his big government reign of terror?

Facts indicate both parties spend way too much and there’s far too few voices on the national stage complaining about the government’s irresponsible shortage of discipline. Jack Hunter wrote at The Washington Examiner last week, “The national debt hit $22 trillion this week. You won’t find many in either major party who think this is a healthy development...

“Democrats were just as responsible for exploding the debt. President Barack Obama became the biggest government spender in world history, leaving office with an almost $20 trillion national debt.

“That is, until our current Republican president outdid Obama in spending. When asked about a looming debt crisis in December, President Trump replied, ‘I won’t be here.’ To his credit, Trump has shown some spending concerns, like his call for every agency to reduce operations by 5 percent in October.”

‘Tis true. If there’s one area where President Trump’s disappointed conservatives it’s his lack of emphasis on cutting spending, but then again, he didn’t campaign as a huge deficit slasher either. In the lead-up to 2016 Trump often gave lip service to “making great deals for the country” and reducing government outlays by demanding the various departments stop wasting so much of the taxpayers’ hard-earned withholdings, but his pitch didn’t differ much from both parties’ presidential candidates’ typical pleas.

Remember how Trump bragged about renegotiating the price tag on the new Air Force One planes being assembled by Boeing? There’s been too little of this type of emphasis on fiscal conservatism ever since. To make headway on the gargantuan national debt, current and future savings must be measured in hundreds of billions, not millions.

In his piece Hunter highlighted seven lawmakers (Sens. Rand Paul R-Ky. and Mike Lee R-Utah, and Reps. Justin Amash R-Mich., Thomas Massie, R-Ky., John Duncan Jr. R-Tenn., Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and Morgan Griffith, R-Va.) who voted to cut spending overall last year, according to the nonpartisan good-government group SpendingTracker.org. Not so coincidentally, all are libertarian-type Republican conservatives who’ve never shied from speaking out against excessive big government and the “unholy alliance” the two parties entered into to keep the dollars churning.

Sen. Rand Paul described this “unholy alliance” between Republicans looking to keep defense spending high and Democrats hoping to shower welfare/social benefits on their favored constituencies. Since neither party would give an inch on their priorities, the usual result was both giving the okay to appropriate whatever monies the other side asked for as long as the courtesy was returned for their own favorites.

Kentucky’s Paul is one of the rare politicians who’s actually put weight behind his words, repeatedly reintroducing the concept of a “penny plan” which, if enacted, would require all federal departments to reduce their expenditures by 1 percent per year until the federal budget was balanced.

Paul ran in 2016 promising to disrupt the “unholy alliance” by cutting both military and domestic spending. Needless to say, Trump’s view of spending proved more popular, though it should be pointed out many, many conservatives weren’t happy with the idea of leaving the big entitlement programs off the table for revisions (as was one of Trump’s main promises).

Of course back in the 80’s Reagan repeatedly asked Congress for a line-item veto as well as for a balanced budget amendment. The BBA movement remained popular into the 90’s, but the Washington establishment never allowed it to pass. Pontificating politicians suggested doom would ensue in national emergencies, etc. if there were mandated curbs on the political class’s ability to fork out the dough.

None of it was true… but these are politicians we’re talking about. If they can’t eternally put their fingers in the treasury cookie jar, where else are they supposed to keep them?

The federal budget deficit and national debt have taken sizeable leaps since Trump assumed office. Democrats blame the tax cuts for the ballooned red ink, but federal individual income tax revenues set another record last year, showing it ain’t how much the government takes in that’s the issue -- it’s how much the ruling elites spend.

As reported by Terence P. Jeffrey at CNS News.com, the money keeps flowing into the U.S. Treasury. “The federal government collected a record $1,665,484,000,000 in individual income taxes in calendar year 2018, according to the Monthly Treasury Statements for the year, which the Treasury finished publishing today with the belated release of the December statement.

“Calendar year 2018 was the first full tax year after President Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Dec. 22, 2017. The previous calendar year record for federal individual income tax revenues was in 2017, when the Treasury collected $1,656,171,550,000 in individual income taxes (in constant December 2018 dollars).

“The real federal individual income tax revenues collected in calendar 2018 were $9,312,450,000 more than the real individual income tax revenues collected in calendar year 2017.”

So much for the revenue disaster Democrats foresaw when the Act was passed. Jeffrey did note there was a significant drop in corporate tax collections -- and a small decrease overall (total federal tax collections in constant December 2018 dollars were $3,407,503,740,000. In calendar year 2018, they were $3,330,470,000,000—a decline of $77,033,740,000 from 2017) -- but in the scheme of things, the tax cuts were amazingly beneficial.

Economic growth remained strong in 2018 and the unemployment rate dropped to levels not seen since the 60’s. So, the slight decline in overall tax receipts amounts to a mere drop in the bucket where the American government’s fiscal problems are concerned.

And spending a few billion more dollars to finish off Trump’s requested wall and achieve reasonable border security would’ve been a small price to pay in the long run. This is one case where devoting more money today helps save it -- big time -- down the road. Democrats’ stonewalling had nothing to do with fiscal responsibility. It’s sad.

If Democrats ever achieve large majorities in Congress and elect a party president the real fun begins. With their Green New Deal, Medicare for All and universal college tuition on the wish list, the sky’s the limit. All the more reason why Republicans should get their spending acts together today.

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