With control over both houses of Congress and the White House for the first time in more than a decade, Democrats are taking the nation on a spending spree. This March, Congress passed a 1.9 trillion-dollar COVID relief bill, which included billions of dollars in grants to progressive wish-list items. Having not filled their appetite for reckless spending, the House passed a 1.2 trillion-dollar infrastructure bill, with 13 Republican members voting in favor of the measure. To be clear, the members of Congress supporting this legislation are only contributing to the coming debt crisis which threatens to cripple the republic.
These sorts of massive spending bills once enraged budget hawks in the Republican party. Under the Obama administration, irresponsible federal government expenditures drew the ire of Republican politicians and grassroots activists alike. Now, as President Biden runs up the deficit, so-called conservatives are supporting him, while others on the right have abandoned the principles of limited government altogether. The Republican party must combat the progressive agenda by returning to its fiscally conservative roots.
In 2009, congressional Democrats passed the American Recovery Act, which spent about 800 billion dollars providing economic relief after the financial crisis of the previous year. The stimulus measures implemented by the Democrats drew fierce backlash. Within months, conservative citizens were vocally protesting what they viewed as government overreach. And their voices only grew louder as Democrats drafted the Affordable Care Act. The newly founded Tea Party movement, a group of conservative activists committed to limited government, was exercising impressive political clout. By the 2010 midterms, the Tea Party had elected a wave of like-minded candidates to House and Senate seats nationwide.
Unfortunately, this new class of Republican lawmakers was unable to enact their agenda for years, as the Obama White House maintained a divided government. However, the election of a Republican president in 2016 gave the GOP unified control over the political branches of the federal government. Certainly, Republicans would finally be able to enact their economic agenda.
As it turned out, the new Republican president was uninterested in fiscally responsible governance. Although some conservative leaders in Congress pushed President Trump to reform entitlement spending and take other steps to reduce the debt, those recommendations were never adopted. Moreover, most backbench Republican members of Congress simply didn’t have a sufficient political incentive to take a stand for fiscal responsibility when the leader of their party wouldn’t do the same.
Tea Party leaders who once appeared determined to establish fiscal responsibility and limited government in Washington largely failed to deliver. Since 2010, under bipartisan governance, entitlement spending has remained unchecked while the national debt has ballooned.
The Trump White House presided over four years of fiscal irresponsibility after Republican leaders decried the same practices during the previous administration; even Mick Mulvaney has since acknowledged the hypocrisy he and his colleagues were engaged in.
Although the political right’s newfound ambivalence toward fiscal responsibility is rooted in Trump’s lack of interest in the issue, there are several new leaders in the GOP prepared to embrace big government as a solution moving forward. Among them is Tucker Carlson who touted his agreement with Elizabeth Warren’s interventionist economic policy during the 2020 presidential campaign. Similarly, Josh Hawley has embraced a variety of populist economic policies. At the height of the COVID lockdowns in spring 2020, Hawley, not wanting to let a crisis go to waste, proposed several overbroad economic stimulus measures that would’ve made Bernie Sanders proud.
These policy prescriptions from the populist wing of the GOP are just the more recent manifestations of the Republican party’s troubling trend away from fiscal responsibility. The more the GOP adopts these proposals, the closer the party moves toward the ideology of progressive Democrats who are always willing to spend taxpayer dollars on new social welfare programs. With neither of the two political parties carrying the mantle of fiscal conservatism, it’s even more likely that Washington will spend its way toward fiscal crisis while continuing to stray from the Founders’ vision of a federal government with limited powers.
Granted, fiscal conservatism isn’t the most exciting campaign platform. However, the stakes couldn’t be higher for the future of the country. As we spend toward oblivion, future generations could be forced to raise taxes on working and middle-class Americans to Scandinavian levels while making radically austere cuts on defense and domestic spending.
Implementing fiscally conservative policies will require some political courage; giving away free stuff tends to be more exciting than sober budget management. However, if conservatives continue to be complicit as the federal government spends well beyond its means, they will be responsible for burdening future generations with the consequences of current leaders’ recklessness. The Republican party must take a stand to avert a potential economic crisis caused by our current irresponsible fiscal policy.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.