As the Congress is immersed in a bitter rift over the impeachment of President Trump, a bipartisan majority of the 535 federal lawmakers who roam the halls of the House and Senate agreed on one big thing this week: spending $1.4 trillion on discretionary programs for the coming fiscal year.
In the midst of one of the most partisan periods in recent congressional history, a majority of Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate definitely see eye-to-eye when it comes to their favorite thing: doling out boatloads of taxpayers’ money.
Indeed, the current partisan animosity in the nation’s capital is so deep it could fill the Grand Canyon. For example, during the Judiciary Committee’s recent hearings on impeachment, votes for bathroom breaks broke along straight party lines. However, when it comes to increasing America’s $23 trillion debt, Democrats and Republicans come together like peanut butter and jelly.
What is arguably most disappointing about this latest spending debacle is that it comes just more than a decade after the tea party movement took the political world by storm. Remember the tea party? They were the breath-of-fresh-air class of Republicans who stormed into Congress in 2010, promising to bring a sense of fiscal sanity back to decadent Washington.
Unfortunately, the tea party movement was unable to make much of a dent in the never-ending spendathon that has engulfed America’s capital city. The short-lived call for limited government, balanced budgets, and an end to crony capitalism (i.e., Wall Street bailouts, corporate subsides, etc.) has fallen by the wayside. And in the aftermath of its destruction, both parties are back to the debt-fueled spending status-quo.
Perhaps the tea party was just the first wave of soldiers in the ultimate battle against Washington’s profligate ways. Although they could not overwhelm their enemies — big business, lobbyists, bureaucrats and big-spending politicians — these patriots’ political careers did not die in vain.
At the very least, the tea partiers — at least for a brief bit of time — gave us all a needed dose of reality concerning the sheer insanity and unsustainability of our present (and future) economic situation. Alas, this temporary moment of fiscal clarity was far too short-lived.
Yet, if the United States is to remain an economic power for decades to come, the time is fast approaching to get our fiscal house in order. And the latest episode of congressional dereliction does not help the cause.
In its most recent spending bill, Congress has allocated $738 billion for the military and $632 billion for non-defense discretionary agencies. This is a stunning increase of $22 billion for the Department of Defense since the last bloated spending bill. And a whopping $27 billion increase for non-defense spending year over year.
Virtually every agency in the federal government is in line for a big spending boost courtesy of the 116th Congress. And federal employees will receive a 3.1 percent pay raise, thanks to taxpayers. This is a total dereliction of congressional duty and only kicks the debt can down the road. Whether Congress likes it or not, eventually, this road will come to a dead end.
If Congress — and the American people who elect House and Senate members — would like to avoid a head-on collision, it is time to remove the spending accelerator from the proverbial floorboard. In other words, it is time for a tea party 2.0.
With the national debt rapidly approaching catastrophic levels and trillion-dollar deficits on the horizon, this problem will likely get worse before it gets better. Economics, like any other science, is not immune to the laws of thermodynamics. Put another way, if something (such as government spending) is unsustainable, eventually it will stop.
The trillion-dollar question for the American public is whether this unsustainable spending binge will glide to a slow stop or end in a fiery economic crash that leaves us all devastated. If we don’t make meaningful reforms somewhat soon, the latter will be much more likely.