Fiscal conservatism may be a relic of the past, a political virtue for those on the right decrying the rise of the nanny state, pleading for balanced budgets, and rallying for small government. In the era of a something for nothing culture, it really isn’t hip or politically expedient to embrace genuine fiscal conservatism – if so, say goodbye to your career in public service.
House Republicans recently tried to make Peter Peterson smile by narrowly approving a White House proposal to claw back about $15 billion in previously approved government funding. After receiving a push from President Donald Trump, Congress voted 210-206 in favor of the Spending Cuts to Expired and Unnecessary Programs Act, which took about two months to complete.
Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who has regularly communicated with the president since April, said the move aims to clean up the budget.
“The President’s rescissions request is a straightforward approach to begin cleaning up a bloated federal budget and respecting hardworking taxpayer dollars,” the House Majority Leader said in a statement.
President Trump is celebrating, tweeting that the “historic” package cuts waste and gets “our government back on track.”
It now moves to the Senate where it is expected to pass.
But should champagne flow from the heavens in celebration of the legislative passage?
A Drop in the Bucket
In March, President Trump was “unhappy” about signing a $1.3 trillion spending bill. Just 24 hours after signing the legislation, Trump said that he might veto it because he was perturbed by the immigration proposals included – not so much about the exorbitant outlays.
The steep price-tag led to several prominent conservatives to speak out against it. One of these was Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who had quite the Twitter marathon by combing through the “2,232 budget-busting pages.” He cited some of the wasteful elements, such as $350,000 to find out if Japanese quail are more sexually promiscuous on cocaine and $1 million for the Cultural Antiquities Task Force.
“Shame, shame. A pox on both Houses – and parties. $1.3 trillion. Busts budget caps. 2200 pages, with just hours to try to read it.
It’s a good thing we have Republican control of Congress or the Democrats might bust the budget caps, fund planned parenthood and Obamacare, and sneak gun control without due process into an Omni…wait, what?
I ran for office because I thought the Obama spending and trillion-dollar annual deficits were a real problem for our country and now Republicans are doing the same thing.”
Months later, can fiscal hawks like Senator Paul finally breathe a sigh of relief?
First, the $15 billion were not even real cuts since they originated from expired programs or were unobligated. Second, the annual U.S. budget totals roughly $4 trillion, so the $15 billion account for just a fraction of a percent. Third, the rescissions will not have any effect on the budget deficit or long-term spending goals, says the Congressional Budget Office – the bill would only eliminate $1.1 billion in spending over a decade.
In other words, this is the random dirty nickel you’d find on the street or that crinkled $5 bill you’d triumphantly discover underneath the sofa to purchase a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.
Republicans Beat Chest and Democrats Whine
The bill is unlikely to generate sensational headlines, especially with the Trump-Kim summit on the horizon, the fallout of the G7 meeting, and the Boston Red Sox leading Major League Baseball in wins. But it is still important to pay attention to it for just the mendacity.
Democrats are griping that the Trump administration is targeting Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) which they say accounts for about half of the rollbacks. Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) argued that her rivals on the other side are threatening job creation, economic growth, and community safety. This was fake news as the CBO confirmed these claims are false.
Meanwhile, many Republicans are beating their chests and telling their constituents that they are fighting big government and resuscitating fiscal sanity. Interestingly enough, when they had the opportunity to show off their conservative credentials in April by supporting a balanced budget amendment, the GOP buckled under pressure.
Once again, as is typically the case, neither side is serious about the nation’s finances.
The Republicans routinely railed against former President Barack Obama for excessive spending, swelling deficits, and adding to the national debt. Now that the Republicans control the White House and Congress, they have the opportunity to remedy the pecuniary damage imposed by Obama. Unfortunately, despite a few monetary successes, the GOP is fumbling. This is the party of Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, men who personified fiscal conservatism. Why can’t today’s generation behave in the same political manner as they did?
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