It’s getting old. Republicans run for office on the promise to cut spending, and then at every opportunity they actually increase spending.
According to new estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the fiscal deficit for FY 2017, which just ended, was $668 billion. That is $82 billion greater than the fiscal 2016 deficit when Obama was in office. Now, with control of all three branches for the last three quarters of FY 2017, Republicans have increased spending.
They first passed not one but two Democrat budgets this year (in April and September). Then they blew through the stop sign of the debt ceiling and raised it unconditionally until December. Not that anything will change in December.
In fact, the fiscal outcome of the first year the GOP controlled all of government is even worse than the topline CBO numbers suggest. The debt ceiling did temporarily put the brakes on creating more debt and forced the Treasury to shift certain payments into the new fiscal year. “If not for the shift of certain payments from October to September in both 2016 and 2017 (because the first day of the month fell on a weekend), the deficit would have increased by $121 billion in 2017 (mostly because 2016 outlays would have been smaller),” wrote the CBO.
Which means that unless Republicans start acting like Republicans, the FY 2018 deficit will be even worse.
Do we have a revenue problem? No. As the CBO points out, we’ve taken in record revenue thanks in part to a recovering job market. Receipts totaled $3,314 billion in fiscal year 2017, $47 billion more than in FY 2016. Thus, all the deficit problems were on the spending side of the ledger, which was $130 billion more than last year, totaling almost $4 trillion.
And it was not a problem of increased defense spending. Expenditures for the DOD rose by just one percent.
The single biggest increase was from the Department of Education. Spending rose by $35 billion, a whopping 45 percent increase from last year. Most of that was from increases in student loan subsidies. Hence, much like with health care, the federal government distorts the market, creates an asset bubble for the higher education cartel, which raises prices, and in turn, requires an infinite amount of subsidies.
HUD was also a big budget-buster, increasing spending by $31 billion or 117 percent.
An extra $35 billion was spent on health care programs this past year relative to 2016, as part of the inexorable trend of endless price inflation that creates the “need” for even greater subsidies. Which is why we will never get our fiscal house in order until we end federal market distortions of health care.
And of course, with the increasing debt, interest payments on the debt continue to climb. They rose by $28 billion, or 10 percent from last year. Unless the runaway train is halted, interest on the debt will become the fastest-growing part of the budget, rising from 7 percent of federal spending to 21 percent by 2047.
In short, the failed cycle of government is working as well as it does under any Democrat administration. Welcome to the unibrow party of Republicans and Democrats.
Sadly, the future looks quite bleak. After promising to get rid of the debt “fairly quickly,” Trump has shown Pelosi and Schumer how to pick his lock and add to the debt in perpetuity by threatening default or a government shutdown. Sensing the growing embarrassment from adding to the debt, yesterday Trump decried the “waste, fraud and abuse” in government, but he is missing the point. Waste, fraud, and abuse are not a bug but the features of unconstitutional big government. When government charges into education, housing, and health care, it inherently distorts the market and creates micro-crony economies that benefit special interests and hurt consumers.
Yet, rather than address the entire premise of government involvement in at least a few of these spheres of policy, Republicans are eyeing several more unpaid-for disaster relief bills, another Puerto Rico bailout, a gratuitous reauthorization of SCHIP, and a bailout for the insurance cartel.
So we don’t even have a spending problem per se. We have a growth-of-government problem. Once we agree that the federal government should get involved in health care and education, they block the private sector, create winners and losers, distort market pricing, and create an endless cycle of waste and subsidization. There is no proper way to run unconstitutional government. It self-perpetuates.
We need a political party that is willing to get government out of all these businesses. We need to re-empower the individual, the community, and local governments and use the federal government only for issues that are national in scope. The spending issue will take care of itself once we recognize the proper roles of the private sector, local governments, states, and the feds.
Unfortunately, until we end the unibrow party, the failed cycle of government and perennial debt will reign supreme.
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Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.