Last week, Republicans and Democrats came together to pass a spending bill that will lift budget caps for 2018 and beyond. The bill included hundreds of billions in increased military and social spending, which will lump huge amounts onto the federal deficit — so it’s official: fiscal conservatism is dead, and Republicans just helped kill it.
Only a few members of the so-called conservative majority in Washington D.C. voted against this happy-go-lucky spending. One such senator was Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), who held up the budget’s passage for hours and even forced a brief government shutdown.
As Paul put it, “When the Democrats are in power, Republicans appear to be the conservative party.” He’s not wrong. During the Obama presidency, conservative members of Congress rightfully rallied against his stimulus spending, made dire (but often correct) predictions about the national debt, and even shut down the government in protest.
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) February 11, 2018
“But when Republicans are in power, it seems there is no conservative party. The hypocrisy hangs in the air and chokes anyone with a sense of decency or intellectual honesty.” Rand’s words ring true when you realize the principles of many Republicans evaporated as soon as one of their own won the presidency.
Why else would they authorize over $300 billion in increased discretionary spending through 2019? Sure, some of this spending seems necessary. The budget did include $80 billion in disaster relief, a few billion for Veterans Affairs, and funding for a popular children’s health insurance program. Yet these numbers look like peanuts compared to the massive amounts doled out for already bloated and wasteful programs.
The idea that we really need another $160 billion in military spending should strike you as absurd. It’s incredibly important that we have a well-funded military, while also making sure our veterans are taken care of, but our current resources are more than enough to meet that goal. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. spends more on national defense than the next eight countries combined — that’s more than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Kingdom, India, France and Japan all put together.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan justified the spending surge by claiming that the military has been underfunded for years and that this bill finally gives our troops what they need to keep us safe.
After years of underfunding and budget uncertainty, the Bipartisan Budget Act just passed overwhelmingly in the Senate fully funds our military at @DeptOfDefense-requested levels. It’s now time for the House to do its job. pic.twitter.com/LPrX1Bw59A
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) February 9, 2018
Clearly, nothing could be further from the truth. The more likely reality is that House Republican donors within the industrial military complex stand to benefit from huge hikes in military outlays. After all, some of the money we already spend on our military certainly hasn’t escaped cronyism and waste. President Trump even wants to spend millions on a parade!
But even worse than hikes in military expenditure is the bill’s sneaky allocation of $128 billion to “social spending” — aka welfare and entitlements, programs that can reduce work incentives and trap people in poverty. After passing a $1.5 trillion tax cut, Republicans need to reduce spending, not send it skyrocketing.
With this type of reckless management by Republicans, it’s no surprise that the deficit for 2019 is expected to approach $1.2 trillion. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) pointed out the obvious: “This spending bill is a debt junkie’s dream.” Thanks to Republican hypocrisy, our nation’s debt is sure to increase from its already dangerous level of over $20 trillion.
When a country carries a large burden in liabilities, it must set aside a huge portion of its annual spending to make interest payments, which means billions of taxpayer dollars disappear each year with little benefit to any of us. With interest rates on the rise, the nasty side effects of irresponsible spending are only going to get worse.
Government debt crowds out private sector investment. There’s a limited pool of money available for loan, and when the government borrows more, there’s less available for businesses to use to finance investment or expansion.
Republicans are supposed to know why debt is so dangerous, so it’s hard to fully comprehend why they’ve changed tune so suddenly. Either congressional conservatives have been struck by amnesia — or they’ve decided not to practice what they preach. They should do their job and get the debt under control, before we elect representatives who will.