July 24, 2019
For all the talk that Republicans and Democrats don't see eye to eye, there is one place where they agree: spending. And lots of it. Sure, there are some Hill conservatives who will raise a ruckus and mean it -- but the appetite for real reform is gone. And this week's debt deal proves it.
"If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If the federal deficit and federal debt are problems," Jay Nordlinger half-jokes, "but no one talks about them, do they cease to be problems?" Most of Congress sure hopes so. In what should have been a messier debate over whether to raise America's credit limit or try to curb spending first, most members let the issue go without a fight. With just days to go before the House adjourns for August, the proposal hatched by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin seems like a shoe-in, despite failing -- miserably -- to do anything about our monster-sized debt. Even President Trump signaled his support, which was somewhat of a surprise since the agreement falls woefully short of the cuts his own budget demanded.
Instead, the president and other Republicans hailed the spike in defense spending -- hoping that will smooth things over with a base who's tired of hearing excuses for these record deficits. Republican Study Committee Chair Mike Johnson (R-La.), who's just as frustrated by the lack of accountability in both parties, bemoaned the $2 trillion in new spending -- especially since it comes with virtually no strings attached. Even the $77 billion in token offsets are a drop in the bucket of America's red ink. "...The price alone is far outside of what Congress should be allocating. With more than $22 trillion in debt, we simply cannot afford deals like this one. I am disappointed Democrats denied the administration even modest concessions, and I will continue to make the case for restoring fiscal sanity in the Congress."
Like Mick Mulvaney, who worries that there isn't the stomach in either party to slash spending, former Congressman Dave Brat understands this is an all-hands-on-deck situation. And both sides are equally to blame. While Democrats would love to pile on the IOUs with free college, health care for illegals, and their Green New Deal, the reality is that Republicans are just as responsible for ignoring the problem that got us here. When the GOP was in complete control of Congress, did they cut back? No, they continued to spend -- blowing through money that our kids and grandkids will be on the hook to repay.
In the end, Brat said, Congress's addiction is "ripping off the American family." Yes, "it takes huge discipline, [but] the Republican Party needs to fight harder." When I asked him how long the country could sustain this, he told listeners on Tuesday's "Washington Watch" to look across the pond.
"There's evidence you can be pathetic for a long time," he said, "And the evidence is called Europe. But eventually, that debt will impinge on your economic growth rate as it has been. And what's really missed in the point is [that] it's intergenerational theft. And I mean that quite literally. We are stealing from our kids and the next generation to the extent that our deficit is $1 trillion. We're spending $1 trillion and getting the goods right now -- and the kids are going to have to pay for [everything] we're consuming. And so it is literally theft. So they're going to have to work hard, pay their taxes, get tax increases, pay off the debt, and pay all their own personal bills for our runaway spending binge."
But it's not just Republicans and Democrats who are to blame here, he points out. It's the American people, who haven't made this issue a priority. Only 48 percent of the country thinks deficit-reduction should be a priority. That's a 24-point drop from the Obama years. What happened? Well, the debt didn't go away, but our stomach for dealing with it certainly has. "The American people aren't getting it," Brat insisted. When experts bring up the economic disaster barreling down the track, the response is always the same: crickets.
From a spiritual and moral perspective, the issue is black and white. We're stewards of this money. "The Bible is simple; the truths [about borrowing and stealing] are simple. Everybody knows it's just whether you want to eat your spinach," Dave explained, "and the American people are saying, 'No, we want ongoing consumption and spending -- even if the next generation pays.'"
It's like a monetary game of musical chairs, passing the debt from one generational to the next. But at some point, the music stops -- and somebody's going to be left standing. It is time to act so that it is not our children and grandchildren left standing -- holding the bill.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.