Reprinted from the Dubuque Telegraph Herald July 26.
Democrats and Republicans in Washington found something to agree on this week: Nobody wants to be accountable for spending.
Leaders on both sides of the congressional aisle came together in an unusual show of bipartisanship. President Trump is on board, too. Their unifying cause? Circumventing the 2011 deficit reduction law.
A House bill calls for raising limits on discretionary spending by $321 billion over two years, blowing up the strict spending caps. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates this plan would add roughly $1.7 trillion to projected debt levels over the next decade.
Now, if you were dreading another round of government shutdown gamesmanship, and the debt-ceiling-sky-is-falling discussion, you’re in luck. You won’t have to worry about that for a while. Conveniently for the politicians, it won’t resume until after the 2020 election. The government shouldn’t be defaulting anytime soon.
And just for a little extra cushion, there’s $50 billion more in spending next fiscal year than this year.
But the flip side of that is soaring debt. No matter how you measure the pleasing growth of the U.S. economy, there is no denying that we are borrowing more than ever as we continue to spend more than we have.
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The deficit will exceed $1 trillion every year beginning in 2022. That used to sound like a date way off in the future, but 2022 is now less than three years away. And 10 years from now, the federal debt will be 92% of the economy, according to the Congressional Budget Office report. Right now, it’s 78%.
Yet no one seems to be talking about the deficit or reining in spending — no one in Washington anyway. Even when the economy is strong, we can’t run the country without overspending by $1 trillion a year? What happened to all the deficit hawks? Where are those politicians that took the country to the brink of default in 2011?
Apparently, spending far beyond our means is no longer a problem our federal lawmakers worry about.
A silver lining is that this maneuver shows Republicans and Democrats in Washington really can negotiate. There was give and take in this deal. The president got more military spending, though not as much as he wanted. The Democrats were able to protect social programs from massive cuts. But it’s disheartening that what it took to motivate this collaborative effort was giving each other political cover so they could overspend and kick the debt ceiling “can” way down the road.
The bill passed in the House on Thursday with a 284-149 vote. This week it will move to the Senate, where it is expected to pass. That will allow all members of Congress to safely skate out in time for their long August recess.
Whew! Spending caps lifted, can kicked safely into 2021, out in time for vacation. What else could an elected official hope for?
Americans should demand more. Like a debt burden that won’t crush their grandchildren. Democrats and Republicans alike need to explain why there is no longer any attempt to control spending.