By Dr. Tom Patterson
The Biden/Harris administration is ignoring established budget tradition in their determination to spend yet more money.
Since the Reagan era, each federal budget has included a list of achievable spending cuts. The final Obama/Biden budget boasted of their averaging 140 cuts, saving $22 billion, yearly. Then-VP Biden headed up these cost cutting efforts as he did the spending reductions in the 2011 Budget Control Act.
Obama praised Biden‘s leadership in the Campaign to Cut Waste, calling him “the right man to lead it because nobody messes with Sheriff Joe.”
So Biden was justified in campaigning on his record of cost-cutting, which he did (although overall spending never fell during his tenure). But, as we have seen on almost every front, the rhetoric of candidate Biden meant nothing.
His initial budget was the first in 40 years to not include a section on savings. Instead, he withdrew President Trump’s final 73 rescissions, which would have saved taxpayers $24.4 billion, including several, such as the Commission on Fine Arts and the Presidio Trust, that had been included in earlier Obama/Biden reductions. His address to Congress in April in lieu of the SOTU contained no mention of waste reduction, nor has any other communication so far.
The contrast is striking. In 2011, President Obama proposed a $4 trillion deficit reduction over 12 years. We now know he fell far short of the mark, yet 10 years later, President Biden proposed a $14.5 trillion increase in deficits over 10 years. Success seems quite probable this time.
What’s going on here? Biden’s inference that there is no waste available in federal spending is laughable. State and local governments are awash in newfound largess. Unemployed beneficiaries have received so much compensation that millions have understandably quit their jobs.
Americans in no financial stress, nursing home residents and dead people by the millions have received COVID stimulus checks. Meanwhile, the Department of Education, an inconsequential agency that has overseen the decline of American education at all levels despite a massive funding surge, was given a $67 billion boost.
The tsunami of spending is relentless. Our national debt has now reached $28 trillion, including a 30 percent increase from spending on the Covid shutdowns alone. Federal spending this fiscal year is about $8 trillion, fully half of which will be put on the tab.
Biden’s next budget is $6 trillion, plus $6 trillion or so of additional spending on anticipated campaign promises. If Biden’s budget plan is adopted, the projected national debt would be $44,800,000,000 by 2031. Moreover, the current value of obligations to finance legal entitlement programs is $132 trillion more.
We are clearly on an unsustainable course. Easy money and goosing the economy with government spending can only take us so far. Eventually, our luck will run out when interest rates return to normal, creditors run out of confidence, inflation and lack of productivity gains take their toll or all of the above.
Technology may help some to delay the deterioration of our standard of living. But our descendants will be far worse off and America will be permanently damaged from our foolish selfishness.
Yet there is a preternatural calmness in Washington circles over the consequences of pushing massive debt out to future generations. When the ruling Left discusses their multi-trillion dollar spending proposals, they typically don’t bother to address the revenue problem. The fact that they are politically popular (and Biden’s “free” spending proposals are) is rationale enough in Dem World.
The spenders act as if spending itself is a social good. Deeply in debt, they spend for unnecessary frills like taxpayer-supplied benefits for illegal immigrants and middle class social programs.
They profess to believe that money will always be available so long as government can figuratively print more, but that is patently ludicrous. More likely, they just don’t care.
These are people who fervently believe in the power of Big Government to make life better, the overwhelming evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. The more money that is spent on anything, the larger their constituent base grows. As in the border crisis, the chance to maintain power drives policy.
Literally nothing else matters.
Dr. Thomas Patterson, former Chairman of the Goldwater Institute, is a retired emergency physician. He served as an Arizona State senator for 10 years in the 1990s, and as Majority Leader from 93-96. He is the author of Arizona’s original charter schools bill.