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Assault on America, Day 208: A horrible budget deal only a DC swamp creature could love

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Is the Republican Party still the home of American fiscal responsibility? (Was it ever?)

It’s a question a lot of folks are asking in the wake of last week’s horrific budget deal between President Donald Trump and congressional leaders, leaving many to ponder what it means to believe in government spending discipline -- and where to go to find it now. Blame heads in all directions in Washington. The only thing the powers-that-be seem to agree on these days is to turn a blind eye to whoever is raiding the federal treasury.

Today’s pols can’t ever decide on anything, but they sure come together when it’s about funding their individual wish-lists! If only Santa Claus did the same thing -- there wouldn’t be an unhappy kid from sea to shining sea!

Everyone -- even Democrats -- realizes it’s wrong to play fast-and-loose with the nation’s long-term financial stability, yet there’s no one at the helm steering the fiscal ship towards calmer waters. Like a boulder rolling down hill, there’s nothing there to hinder it. Michael Tanner wrote at National Review, “The national debt has reached $22 trillion, a $3 trillion increase since President Trump took office. That’s a Barack Obama level of red ink — but during an economic expansion, not a recession. Of course, some might blame increased deficits on the 2018 tax cut, and there’s some truth to that. Indeed, the tax cut has not ‘paid for itself’ through increased growth. But the real villain is increased government spending. It is estimated that, by the end of his first term, Trump will have increased discretionary spending by 22 percent.

“We now pay more in interest on the debt than we spend on education and military personnel. By 2028, interest payments are expected to reach $914 billion annually. Over the next ten years, net interest cost will total around $7 trillion. Regardless of political ideology, everyone should recognize that interest payments are simply throwing money down a hole.

“Worse, none of this includes the unfunded liabilities of entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare...”

Tanner added the domestic economy has proven more resilient than many had assumed and a long-predicted collapse hasn’t yet taken place -- but the “sugar high” of deficit spending can’t go on forever. He’s right. Technically speaking, there’s an infinite quantity of numbers. But dollars are very finite. Do the ruling elites understand this?

The National Review writer also suggested Trump’s presidency effectively ended the debt-conscious Tea Party movement. Hardly. The same folks who objected to Obama’s profligate spending are still around and they’re not happy. It’s true many Tea Partiers now back Trump and are mostly satisfied with his administration’s direction on nearly all topics. But it could also be said they’re lying dormant in anticipation of the next round of fiscal outrages. This budget travesty might be the impetus.

A site I often visit -- and encourage all to do the same -- is U.S. Debt Clock.org. For those having difficulty visualizing just how fast the debt tallies are mounting, the website provides the imagery. The only question is whether the programmers of the “clock” will be able to speed it up fast enough to account for the latest federal outlays. Can today’s education-challenged youth even count that high? Dang, there are a lot of numerals on that thing!

Reaction to the agreement could generously be described as mixed. The establishment political class almost universally loved it, touting the bipartisan nature of the dialogs and the compromises each side made to “get to yes.” Then there was the citizenry, both Republican and Democrat, who were exasperated by how both sides appeared to cave. Democrats were infuriated that Trump will finally get his wall money uninhibited -- and that there was another jump in defense spending. Conservatives and Republicans were enraged that non-military domestic spending will go through the roof.

It’s also time to play a dirge for the somewhat pathetic 2011 spending caps (and the 2013 version hammered out between Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray). The caps weren’t exactly the be-all, end-all solution to out-of-control government spending, but at least they were a starting point. Now, everything is both on the table and off the table at the same time. As long as there’s a proposal to appropriate more dough, who cares who it’s from, where it goes, what it does and which demographic group will ultimately pay for it!

#NeverTrumpers must be in their glory, pointing to the lack of presidential grit to say no to both parties’ congressional leaders. Chants of “See, I told you so!” echo off the mold infested walls of the few remaining #NeverTrump enclaves. Bill Kristol and his ilk are probably making phone calls as we speak to Trump critic Mark Sanford to determine whether the former South Carolina rep is serious about launching a primary challenge.

Whereas Sanford’s hint at running was a joke before, now he’s got two more years’ worth of budgetary malfeasance to talk about. Some will listen. Time will tell the results.

Perhaps even scarier is both parties likely figured they could hide behind the Robert Mueller hearings to shield them from scrutiny. With the news media the way it is -- always homing in on the most gleaming shiny object in view -- our elected “leaders” bet that commentary on spending would be erased by sundown on Wednesday evening. Sad to say, they were right in many respects. Mueller’s face dominated the evening news last week. What should’ve been there instead was a dilapidated portrait of Uncle Sam with a frown on his brow, outstretched hands and empty pockets with the linings hanging out.

Republicans aren’t solely at fault for today’s spend now and don’t worry about tomorrow mindset, but it looks as though the old conservative three-legged stool (or four if you count the Tea Party) is losing one of its pillars. In Ronald Reagan’s time it was said the GOP was made up of fiscal conservatives/libertarians, national security conservatives and social conservatives. With the events of the past couple decades, do fiscal conservatives have a home anymore?

In a sane world Americans would leap to their feet and recognize a few things. First, most of what the 2020 Democrats propose will make a bad fiscal situation worse, and their tax-the-rich-into-oblivion solutions would effectively end the United States as we know it. Second, short of a citizen uprising -- like 2010’s Tea Parties -- nothing will change with the present congressional leaders in place. The worst offenders deserve primary challengers, and responsible people should contribute resources to beating them. It should be a national limited-government effort.

Third and finally, there’s a huge opening for Trump to make fiscal responsibility a central pillar of his “Keep America Great” 2020 campaign. As a candidate in 2016 Trump largely avoided the subject of fiscal discipline, but there’s additional urgency here. If he wins a second term there will be no political pressure on him to cave on budget demands any longer -- including the pleas of his own party leaders. Is a big future government shutdown in the works? Maybe, but it’s exactly what the country needs.

Presidential second terms always prove much harder to sustain public support for an agenda. If Trump hopes to be remembered as a great president, he’ll do something about the spending problem and deficit before it’s too late. It may already be.

Thankfully for him, campaign fundraising is humming along. And much of the cash is originating from an unexpected place. David M. Drucker wrote at The Washington Examiner, “President Trump is cashing in on California as establishment-oriented Republican donors initially resistant to his brand of populist nationalism open their checkbooks to keep the White House out of the hands of a liberal Democrat.

“Trump has seen an uptick in support from wealthy California Republicans, many of whom stayed on the sidelines in the 2016 contest. This country club set remains uncomfortable with the president’s pugnacious style of communicating. But after watching the unfolding Democratic presidential primary and a House of Representatives controlled by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Republicans fear a Washington overrun by liberals more than they do an unbridled Trump.”

Drucker’s report also added that big money is coming in to help the GOP reclaim the House, too. Such reactions were predictable once Nancy Pelosi retook the Speaker’s gavel, but who could’ve foreseen how obnoxious the four racist members of “The Squad” would turn out to be?

Both parties fundraise off each other. It’s nothing new to see Trump doing well in a state that wouldn’t vote for him (in the Electoral College sense) if he were the second coming of JFK -- or Ronald Reagan. California Republicans have little else to do with their political contributions; the state’s a lost cause in virtually every electoral respect -- and the prospects of improvement aren’t good.

The awful budget deal won’t help matters, but conservatives should take some solace in the fact Democrat 2020 candidates will soon be at it again with their next round of debates. Will they address the deficit? Will they talk about the national debt? Is there another solution other than confiscatory taxes? Inquiring minds want to know.

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