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Michael Swartz / Feb. 9, 2018

Fiscal Hawks Go on Leave

Early this morning, the House and Senate managed to pass yet another spending spree.

Our federal budget process is supposed to go like this: The House comes up with a budget resolution and a dozen appropriation bills to fill it out, then passes them and sends them to the Senate, which does its job followed by any necessary reconciling between the bills. Then the budget moves along to the president, who signs it before the next fiscal year begins on the first of October. That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway.

In practice, though, this annual exercise stumbles along between continuing resolutions as partisans from both parties hold the budget hostage to get what they want out of the deal. Recently, we were treated to the latest in a predictable series of government “shutdowns” that essentially amount to paid vacations for federal employees. Early this morning, after a brief midnight shutdown forced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who objected to the proposed budget’s spending increase, the House and Senate cobbled together the necessary votes and sent it to President Donald Trump for his signature. Both houses actually agreed to a two-year deal presented by Senate leadership, but they face another deadline of March 23 to hammer out the details.

“When the Democrats are in power, Republicans appear to be the conservative party,” Paul tweeted. “But when Republicans are in power, it seems there is no conservative party.”

Naturally, that long-term security comes with a big price tag — an additional $320 billion in deficit spending during that time period — but we finally get an increase in military spending after years of sequester-mandated cuts. In addition, the Senate deal eliminates some lingering ObamaCare gems like the “death panels.”

Yet for all those guns, the Democrats have larded us up with a lot of butter. And the Republicans have gone right along. As The Wall Street Journal put it, “Democrats backed up the truck for funding on everything from community health centers to billions on child-care grants to $20 billion for infrastructure.” One example is the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which leftists blasted the GOP for not immediately reauthorizing after it expired late last year. A recent six-year extension is now a decade-long boondoggle. Democrat demands for dollar-for-dollar parity with increased defense spending also netted them more money for infrastructure, and a relief from running up against our artificial debt limit until sometime next year.

“What happened to the Democrats’ ‘Better Deal?’” asks The Washington Post. “Check the spending bill.” Chuck Schumer crowed, “This budget agreement shows that the Better Deal agenda is more than a set of ideas; now, it’s going to be real policies. It delivers on exactly what we laid out last year: rural broadband, child care and assistance with college tuition.”

Good thing the GOP controls both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue!

That additional money spent on non-essential items in return for simply undoing cuts that arguably should never have been made to the (constitutionally mandated) defense of our nation is the part of the bargain that rankles some House Republicans — the ones who were elected by the Tea Party to fight against these types of deals.

“I am baffled why the Republican Party has turned into such a big spending party. It is one thing to spend money; it is another thing to spend money you don’t have,” lamented Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, who was elected in the initial 2010 Tea Party wave. Brooks vowed to be a “hell no” vote on the deal and was joined by several other fiscally conscious Republican stalwarts.

But Brooks and company seem to have missed the memo that deficit spending is back in style. And while it may goose the GDP rate slightly and makes individual members look better when they have some pork to share, the issue is that increasing interest rates will make this deficit spending even worse than it appears now. For their part, Democrats complained loudly about raising the deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years (a spurious number anyway) with the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but they’re now dead silent about similar amounts of deficit spending.

So this grand bargain, as well as the omnibus spending bill that will follow it in a few weeks once all the appropriations are ironed out, will be the product of centrist House Republicans joining with middle-of-the-road Democrats. Conservatives oppose this bill for its deficit spending, while far-left Democrats are enraged that it doesn’t include a resolution to the DACA issue. Those who may directly benefit from this largesse will be the big winners, but since all this was accomplished without a scintilla of meaningful entitlement reform — President Trump long ago promised not to touch Social Security or Medicare — our children and grandchildren will once again be big losers. Sad!

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