Spending and Lying
The Congressional Budget Office issued a sobering report last week showing that federal debt, already more than $7 trillion, will increase $2.4 trillion by the end of this decade. The single-year deficit for 2004 will be nearly $500 billion.
The federal spending frenzy of the last few years is well documented, but these latest figures have congressional Republicans and the White House scrambling to figuring out how to explain the budget mess to voters in November. Having abandoned even the limited government rhetoric of the Reagan and Gingrich years, mainstream Republicans now must attempt to out-pander the Democrats. The Medicare bill is clear evidence of this.
Some conservatives have criticized Mr. Bushís spending requests, but their votes donít always match their words. True fiscal conservatives in Congress have only one choice: Vote NO on all spending bills, especially the 13 annual appropriations bills. This is the only honest measure of whether any member of Congress truly wants smaller government. Itís galling to hear members who voted for the Medicare bill and huge increases in 2004 agency budgets complain about excessive spending.
Already, the $400 billion price tag attached to the new Medicare drug bill has been exposed as a predictable lie. Just one month after passage of the bill, the White House admits the cost may be one-third higher, roughly $540 billion. Yet even this bait-and-switch tactic is deceptive, because independent groups estimate the true cost of the Medicare bill will be one trillion dollars over ten years.
Even in the midst of this flood of red ink, the president is busy finding programs to expand. He plans to increase funding for the rotten National Endowment for the Arts by $20 million in 2005, while expanding the space program to make trips to Mars and the moon that will cost hundreds of billions. Of course NASA and the NEA represent very small slivers of the annual budget, but the dollar amounts are far less important than the tone set by the president. The White House wants to pretend that deficits donít matter, that more revenues will materialize in the future, and that burdening our grandchildren to win votes today is morally acceptable.
Faced with a severe budget crisis, the federal government should do what any family or business would do in similar circumstances: drastically reduce spending and sell off assets. It is preposterous that the federal budget has more than doubled just since 1990, and surely the republic would survive a return to 1995 or 2000 spending levels. Furthermore, the government owns trillions of dollars worth of land and other assets, assets that should be sold to pay off the mounting national debt. Why should additional debt and new taxes be forced upon the American people to pay for government sins, especially when the spendthrift politicians have substantial assets at their disposal?
Government is incapable of austerity measures for a very simple reason: the money it spends belongs to others. Unless and until federal politicians are voted out of office for their sins, we can only expect the spending, borrowing, taxing, and printing of fiat money to continue.