Sen. Patty Murray is an unashamed spender and taxer. She’s never seen a government outlay she didn’t like and she was in high spirits over the “bipartisan” budget deal she crafted with Republican Rep. Paul Ryan. The deal helps “bring some respect to the word compromise,” she crowed.
Why wouldn’t she like this “compromise?” She got an increase of 63 billion in the current discretionary budget and broke the back of the sequester, the only victory for fiscal conservatives in recent years. All she gave in return was yet another promise for future spending cuts that will never happen.
Just in case you bought the blather that this wasn’t a bad deal, here are a couple of points to consider. First, the only budget Congress has any control over is the current one. They can send time-traveling messages to future legislators, urging them to have more courage to do the right thing than they themselves do. But they have no authority or control over what happens then — Zero. Zip. Nada. Those 10-year deficit reduction plans you hear about are just so many empty words on paper.
The other point is that there isn’t a reason in the world to think that budget cutting will be any easier in the future. That sweet bye-and-bye when over half of all Americans won’t mind losing benefits and politicians will no longer cling to their offices no matter what it takes — sorry folks, it’s just a fantasy.
On the contrary, Obamacare, which promises to soak up trillions and the end of “quantitative easing” (money printing), which has to occur sooner or later, will make budget cutting exponentially more difficult in the future.
Ryan also claims there are no tax increases in the bill, just some “fees.” But it’s irrelevant whether taxes are raised when spending is increased. The gambit of hiking spending without a tax increase isn’t exactly a badge of honor.
Moreover, the fees in the bill look more like taxes. The fees on airline passengers, for example, go straight into the general fund and are not used for air travel enhancements. If it looks like a tax and walks like a tax…
Ryan knows all this, of course. He’s made similar arguments himself many times. So why do Republicans submit to humiliating defeat rather than stand up for what they believe in?
They say they do it to avoid another government shutdown. Apparently it’s written in stone some place that all shutdowns are automatically the fault of Republicans. That was John McCain’s apparent assumption when he attacked the “wacko birds” (his third-grade level attempt to shame the conservatives) for recklessly causing a shutdown and bringing disgrace to their party.
But why were the fiscal conservatives deemed the troublemakers? There was simply a policy difference between the Democrats, who believed the debt ceiling limit should be raised without any measures to bring future debt under control, and Republicans, at least some, who felt that was irresponsible. In fact, it was only Obama who ostentatiously refused to negotiate and who made the shutdown as painful as possible.
But McCain’s charge that the blame was on Republicans turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Democrats and their media friends gladly bought his version of the truth. Republicans “learned” again that standing for principle on spending can result in political damage. What they should have learned is the value of staying unified and stating your points repeatedly and clearly.
It was an economic crime for Congress to raise spending again. We’re 17 trillion in debt. Our national debt exceeds our GDP, long considered a red alert level for national indebtedness. Even under President Clinton, deficits were controlled but today our politicians mindlessly spend away.
Sen. Tom Coburn had a modest idea. Even just cutting the most obviously duplicative programs would save $25 billion. That’s not much, but at least a step in the right direction.
When those with the courage to press the attack against wasteful spending are undermined by their own “leaders,” we’ll see yet more steps in the wrong direction. Murray will win again.
• East Valley resident Tom Patterson is a retired physician and former state senator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.