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Assault on America, Day 365: Trump & Congress must confront spending or we’re doomed

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With the holiday season effectively over (except for those Orthodox Christians who observe Christmas on Epiphany, January 6), it’s safe to say people are weary of parties. The post-holiday blues is real -- and everyone gets a case of it to some degree -- yet still there is some satisfaction in knowing the pressure is relieved to attend mandatory gatherings and behave your best at all times.

No one likes a party pooper, right?

Far be it from me to start the new year -- and new decade -- on a sour note, yet all is not well in Donald Trump’s Republican Party. Sure, there’s Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment sham to deal with and the upcoming election to fret over, but there’s something perhaps even more pressing than these temporary concerns in the GOP universe that merits attention.

Americans enter the 2020s with a government spending and debt predicament of epic proportions. The 2010s began under the “leadership” of Barack Obama, a president who promised (during his campaign) to boost federal spending if he was elected and made good on the vow courtesy of a Democrat controlled Congress that believed in such things as “stimulus” packages (otherwise known as tossing taxpayer dollars into a huge and corrupt pit full of special interest vipers and political crony rodents) and national healthcare. When Obama assumed office, Congress hastily passed the hopelessly mislabeled “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,” nicknamed the Recovery Act, or more widely recognized as the Obama Stimulus.

Congressional Democrats justified the largesse by arguing it was necessary due to the recession that hit after the housing bubble burst in the final months of George W. Bush’s presidency. It’s water under the bridge now, but the “stimulus” sham started America down the road to profligate Washington-based spending and untenable deficits, a trend Trump has not exactly embraced yet hasn’t done much to reverse.

The 2010s set records for budget deficits, with Obama claiming the four largest annual shortfalls in American history. Trump’s first term saw an uptick in spending from Obama’s last couple years…and it’s not looking good for the foreseeable future.

Matt Margolis lamented at PJ Media, “While Trump has done a lot to clean up the mess left by his predecessor, the problem of spending has gone largely ignored. It’s up to conservatives to put pressure on both the GOP and Trump to do something about it. Conservatives should not turn a blind eye to Trump’s spending record. The Tea Party movement was crucial to crippling Obama’s reckless spending, and Trump gave us plenty of reasons to believe he was going to be frugal, not Obama-esque, when it came to spending...

“[S]pending under Trump hasn’t exactly gotten better. In fact, it’s gotten worse than the latter Obama years, but still not quite as bad as the worst of Obama's years. Fiscal year 2019 came in at $984.4 trillion, up from $779.1 trillion the previous year, and $665.5 trillion for FY2017, Obama’s final budget. It’s a disturbing trend, and anyone who was critical of Obama’s reckless spending should be equally critical of how Trump hasn’t curbed spending.

“...Trump isn’t nearly as bad a spender as Obama, but Trump’s record thus far is nothing to brag about, and current projections suggest it’s only going to get worse. With the economy as strong as it is, we should be able to go back to pre-Obama era deficits, and, quite frankly, a balanced budget for a change. Trump has done a remarkable job with cutting costly regulations, and those cuts should be met with similar cuts in spending. If Trump doesn’t slash spending in his second term, it could be a huge problem politically and economically.”

This is no joke. If there’s a leg left for the dwindling and enfeebled #NeverTrump faction to stand on, it’s concerning the president’s lack of fiscal bona fides. Whereas the 80’s saw big boosts in federal spending to spoil sizeable increases in tax revenues (tax collections doubled in the decade while spending tripled), the trend now is to spend, spend, spend regardless of modest annual increases in receipts. Contrary to the naysayers’ assertions, the Trump tax cut two years ago isn’t solely responsible for the big jump in deficits.

Plenty of money (sets new records every year) is flowing into the U.S. treasury, but even more is heading out thanks to irresponsible attitudes among the leaders of both parties and a president who loves to tout today’s plethora of positive economic figures yet doesn’t appear to pay much heed to the mounting national debt. These are more than just numbers on a very large spreadsheet -- it’s money that’s eventually going to have to be paid back (or written off). Just the interest on the debt alone is a scary item, nearing 9 percent of the total outlays.

That’s just the interest paid. Even with long-term mortgages everyone pays at least a little principal every month/year. Not the government!

Here are some facts about the debt (which were published last July), courtesy of the Pew Research Center: 1. The federal government’s total debt stands at $22.023 trillion (as of the end of June). 2. The nation’s debt is now bigger than its gross domestic product, which was an estimated $21.06 trillion in the first quarter of 2019. 3. Though U.S. government debt is perhaps the most widely held class of security in the world, 26.5% of the debt (about $5.83 trillion) is owed to another arm of the federal government itself. 4. Net interest payments on the debt are estimated to total $393.5 billion this fiscal year, or 8.7% of all federal outlays. 5. Until recently, the U.S. government was paying historically low rates on its debt, largely because of the Federal Reserve’s efforts to keep interest rates low during and after the Great Recession.

For those who appreciate visuals, highly recommended is the U.S. Debt Clock, which indicates the debt has surpassed $23.1 trillion and is fast approaching $23.2 trillion. The debt clock site provides a host of additional figures on the current fiscal situation, including U.S. tax revenue. Big, big numbers, folks.

What to do? For those whose memories don’t last a decade, the national Tea Party movement began as a massive protest over spending (spurred on by the passage of Obamacare, dubiously titled the “Affordable Care Act”). CNBC’s Rick Santelli’s signature rant took place a year earlier in response to the Obama stimulus proposal, but it was Nancy Pelosi’s healthcare strong-arming of wavering members in Congress that really got the ball rolling.

The tea parties did good work in bringing attention (or in more contemporary lingo, “raising awareness”) to the subject of spending and debt, but somehow the problem got tucked away behind other hot-button political issues such as immigration and healthcare reform (thanks to Chief Justice John Roberts’ refusal to toss out the entirety of Obamacare when he had the chance). A number of issues have taken the lion’s share of Congress’s time in the interim, including numerous fights over the budget and passing continuing resolutions (and the notorious government shutdowns), but there hasn’t been a serious attempt to limit spending -- or cap it -- since the Budget Control Act of 2011 (with sequestration caps starting in 2013).

Sequestration -- or the possibility of it -- is a thing of the past, as is debate over a Balanced Budget Amendment and worries over busting through the invisible debt ceiling. There just aren’t any institutional means in place to contain the politicians’ addiction to writing checks. And let’s not even talk about accountability. A number of conservatives (including Ron and Rand Paul) have called for auditing the Federal Reserve, but what about regular audits of federal departments? Is every federal dollar well spent? Do taxpayers still drop a thousand bucks for a hammer or a toilet seat?

Such scant attention to the spending issue is worse than mere negligence, it’s immoral. Not only does the gargantuan (does anyone truly understand how large $23.2 trillion dollars is?) national debt pose a contemporary challenge to find money to pay interest, but the looming issue of bankrupt entitlement programs casts a long shadow on the future, too. Governments that have tried reducing benefits or raising taxes to battle the debt dilemma engendered significant social resistance. Think it couldn’t happen here? How many Americans are dependent on government pensions or transfer payments?

Will there ever be any political will to stem the debt tide? With Democrat presidential candidates proposing transformative programs to fight “climate change” as well as new entitlements (free college tuition, federal childcare, federal pre-K education, slavery reparations, etc.), how are we supposed to glimpse a bright future? It’s understandable how President Trump and congressional Republicans are preoccupied with the political fights before them, but how long can we afford to put off doing something about the spending/debt conundrum?

America’s best bet is clearly still with reelecting Trump. If any of the Democrats replaced him, it’d be curtains for the economy. Justin Haskins wrote at Fox News, “There are plenty of reasons to believe that President Trump will be reelected in 2020 and that Republicans will hold onto their Senate majority and gain House seats. But anything can happen in politics – so supporters of individual liberty and free markets need to be armed with as much information as possible to refute the far-left campaign rhetoric Democratic candidates are engaging in.

“Socialists are clever marketers. They pitch their proposals as necessary to advance justice, equality, prosperity and the very survival of life on Earth in the face of impending environmental disaster. None of these things are true, but they sound good and have a certain appeal…

“If socialists and progressives have it their way, the 2020 elections will force America down the road to economic and societal ruin. Our children and grandchildren would be saddled with tens of trillions of dollars of debt they won’t be able to pay back. And our highly dysfunctional federal government would be granted the authority to control our lives, from the womb to the tomb.”

Yes, the stakes in the 2020 election are very high, and Trump is probably the only politician in America who could successfully make the argument that spending and the budget must be dealt with on his watch. Assuming Trump wins a second term, he would have plenty of political capital to spend without worry about maintaining approval ratings through perpetuating unnecessary, duplicative and wasteful federal programs.

Trump could wage a war on waste and bureaucracy, and he’d have a solid percentage of the people behind him. In times of crisis, rally ‘round the flag.

As long as President Trump and congressional leaders of both parties continue putting off doing anything about spending and the national debt, Americans will remain frustrated at the lack of action. It’s not a taxing and revenue issue, it’s a lack of political backbone. Will Trump step up to the plate?

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