The Biggest Swamp of All

Far from campaign promises of fiscal responsibility, politicians continue major deficit spending.

Arnold Ahlert · Jul. 29, 2019

“But I say to Congress: I will never sign another bill like this again. I’m not going to do it again.” —Donald Trump, shortly after signing the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, March 23, 2018

“House Republicans should support the TWO YEAR BUDGET AGREEMENT which greatly helps our Military and our Vets. I am totally with you!” —Donald Trump, voicing his support for the two-year, $2.7 trillion budget deal passed by the House last Thursday

Perhaps nothing better exemplifies the yawning chasm between rank pandering and virtually nonexistent statesmanship than the Ruling Class’s relentless determination to spend the nation into bankruptcy. Why would they raise spending caps by $320 billion over two years while offsetting less than one-quarter of them, and raise the baseline for future discretionary spending by nearly $2 trillion over the next 10 years? “It helps everybody, including the majority — not having to deal with that at election time,” said Rep. John Carter (R-TX).

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) agrees wholeheartedly. “Both sides don’t want to risk a government shutdown, let alone a default,” he added. “Nobody wants a high-drama event like that leading into the elections.”

Not nobody, Mr. Cole. There are plenty of Americans appalled by the cowardice, the transparent scheming, and the complete abdication of fiscal responsibility this deal represents. To their credit, 132 of the 197 House Republicans voted against the measure. But they were more than offset by the 65 Republicans and the 219 out of 235 Democrats more than willing to mortgage the nation’s future to protect themselves.

What about default? The fraudulence of that canard has been revealed so many times one would imagine it no longer resonates. But in a nation where millions of Americans can’t even add or subtract simple whole numbers without a calculator, explaining that the current interest payment of $479 billion consumes approximately 10% of the FY2020 budget — meaning government revenues would have to decline by more than 90% to precipitate genuine default — remains a Herculean task.

That is not to say $479 billion is chump change. That kind of money could be used to fund many other things were it not for the reality that the $22 trillion of national debt — representing nearly 105% of gross domestic product — requires servicing. And because Congress remains grossly irresponsible, by 2025 interest on the debt will eclipse defense spending. Moreover, the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid payments that currently consume 72% of tax revenue would, without adjustment, consume 100% of the budget within 20 years.

That means everything else — defense, education, welfare, infrastructure, foreign aid, tax expenditures, and national security — will either be funded by additional deficits or massive tax increases.

After that? “One day there will be a default, but it’ll be a different kind of default. It’ll be one one completely out of our control when the economy crumbles. There’ll be no health care, there’ll be no pensions, there’ll be no minimum wage, there’ll be no property rights,” warns radio host Mark Levin.

Despite that reality, there are those still willing to defend Ruling Class elites who remains wholly insulated from the consequences of their own recklessness. “The point here is that old-fashioned federal spending works to increase demand and boost growth, asserts columnist David Dayen. "None of the negative side effects we constantly hear about — public spending ‘crowding out’ private investment, or deficits leading to runaway inflation — have materialized since the Great Recession. We had a persistent demand shortfall, and when government finally decided to fill it, the economy accelerated. This may be a spending theory more associated with liberals, but it’s certainly assisted the last two conservatives in the White House.”

Which “conservatives” would those be? As president, Barack Obama was the nation’s most profligate spender, but that was only because he managed to eclipse the deficit spending record rung up by George W. Bush. Trump? Despite all promises to the contrary, he amassed his first $1 trillion of additional debt his first 18 months in office.

Moreover, what Dayen and his fellow travelers don’t tell you is that deficit spending is the wholly irresponsible “kick the can down the road” approach to budgeting. Today’s politicians don’t care if the nation blows up after they’ve left office. They only care about getting reelected now, and if it take a little “vote buying” to do it — be it “free” health care, or “free"college, or even "free” money such as a Universal Basic Income — the sky’s the limit.

Yet the public is far from blameless. In a nation where the top 20% of Americans pay 95% of the income taxes, and 44% of Americans pay no income taxes at all, there are plenty of us more than willing to be bought. It’s what happens when the only deficit larger than our fiscal one is our moral one, and words like “stigma,” “last resort,” and “personal responsibility” have been wholly supplanted by “rights,” “entitlements,” and “social justice.”

Seriously tackling the national debt required both sides of the equation to be addressed. Politically, America desperately needs term limits, a five-year moratorium (at least) on the politician-to-lobbyist pipeline, and a series of laws that would bar elected officials from using family members to enrich themselves. Without such fixes, the nation will never again experience anything resembling the statesmanship necessary to make the hard and unpopular choices necessary to avoid fiscal armageddon.

The people? A far heavier lift. Rampant innumeracy, the virtual elimination of civics instruction, the cultivation of victimhood, and our “anything goes” moral climate — coupled with the aforementioned reality that millions of Americans remain largely exempt from contributing to the upkeep of their own nation — exponentially compounds the problem. Everybody’s in favor of fiscal responsibility … until “their” program or entitlement is affected. And only in a nation with a wholly corrupted education system and media could anyone seriously believe there is “free” anything, or a “right” to that which requires the labor and/or expertise of someone else, such as a surgeon, to realize it.

Moreover, the American dollar is a fiat currency, meaning its value is attached to nothing other than pure faith, on the part of Americans themselves, and those we expect to lend us the money to finance our unconscionable profligacy. They do so because the dollar is the world’s reserve currency, a reality China and Russia — and Facebook — would like to upend.

“We must impose firm caps on future debt, accelerate the repayment of the trillions we now owe in order to reaffirm our principles of responsible and limited government, and remove the burdens we are placing on future generations.” —GOP Platform, July 2016

Three years and another $2.6 trillion of debt later, nothing has been reaffirmed other than the rampant hypocrisy of our Ruling Class and its continuing accommodation by a somnambulant electorate — all of whom will undoubtedly profess to be “surprised” when the slowest unfolding meltdown in the history of the world finally occurs.

Who cleans The Swamp when everyone is swimming in it?

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