With the national debt fast approaching $15 trillion, no member of Congress of either party, and no American citizen of any political persuasion, would argue against the proposition that the federal budget needs to be cut, and cut drastically.
The Congressional Budget Office is forecasting a $1.5 trillion budget deficit for fiscal year 2011, giving us the third straight year of trillion-dollar budget deficits. The projected budget deficit for this year is larger than the entire federal budget was as recently as 1994 — when the government “only” spent $1.461 trillion while running a deficit of $203 billion.
In its 2008 party platform, the Republican Party maintains:
Republicans will uphold and defend our party’s core principles: Constrain the federal government to its legitimate constitutional functions. Let it empower people, while limiting its reach into their lives. Spend only what is necessary, and tax only to raise revenue for essential government functions.
In this platform, the Republicans also contrast themselves with the Democratic Party:
The other party wants more government control over people’s lives and earnings; Republicans do not. The other party wants to continue pork barrel politics; we are disgusted by it, no matter who practices it. The other party wants to ignore fiscal problems while squandering billions on ineffective programs; we are determined to end that waste. The entrenched culture of official Washington — an intrusive tax-and-spend liberalism — remains a formidable foe, but we will confront and ultimately defeat it.
Clearly, the Republicans want to be known as the party of fiscal responsibility. Yet, under the leadership of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney (individuals the GOP platform expresses “gratitude for eight years of honorable service from”), the federal budget increased from$2 trillion in fiscal year 2002 (Bush’s first budget) to $3.1 trillion in fiscal year 2009 (Bush’s last budget). This last of Bush’s budgets was the first in U.S. history to have a deficit of over $1 trillion. During the eight years of Bush’s reign (which included a Republican majority in both houses of Congress for over four years), the national debt practically doubled, increasing from $5,727,776,738,304.64 at the time Bush’s first inauguration in 2001 to $10,626,877,048,913.08 on the last day of Bush’s second term.
Then, on the eve of the 2010 midterm elections in which Republicans tried (and succeeded only in the House) to regain control of the Congress, House Republicans released their “Pledge to America.” In it they promised a “new governing agenda for America” that “stands on the principles of smaller, more accountable government.”
But on the very day that House Republicans issued their worthless pledge, they also voted in overwhelming numbers along with Democrats to pass four pieces of legislation that violate the very pledge that the Republicans maintained they would adhere to if they gained a majority in the House in the midterm election: The Family Health Care Accessibility Act, The Emergency Medic Transition Act, The National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Reauthorization Act, and The Training and Research for Autism Improvements Nationwide Act.
But now that the Republicans control the U.S. House of Representatives, certainly they are taking drastic measures to deal with our trillion-dollar deficits and crushing debt and avert a financial collapse? Think again.
Oh, on the surface the Republicans continue to masquerade as the party of fiscal responsibility and smaller government. But how hard is it to position oneself to the right of Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, James Clyburn, Harry Reid, and Dick Durbin? It doesn’t take much digging before we begin to see the Republican hypocrisy on budget cuts ooze to the surface.
The Republicans are patting themselves on the back for recently passing a bill that cuts $6 billion from government spending. H.J. Res. 48, Additional Continuing Appropriations Amendments, 2011, amends the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (PL 111-242) by “striking the date specified in section 106(3) and inserting ‘April 8, 2011.’” This bill basically authorizes the federal government to continue paying its bills for three more weeks. It passed with the help of 186 out of 240 Republicans in the House and 36 out of 47 Republicans in the Senate.
This is the fifth time the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 has been amended to avert a government shutdown. This Act was necessitated in the first place because Congress never passed its typical series of regular appropriations bills for fiscal year 2011, which began on October 1, 2010. It was signed into law on the last day of fiscal year 2010 (Sept. 30), but only funded the government until December 3, 2010.
Public Law 111-290 extended this deadline to December 18, 2010. Public Law 111-322 extended it to March 3, 2011. The recently passed H.J. Res. 44, Further Continuing Appropriations Amendments, 2011, which became Public Law 112-4, extended government operations only through March 18, 2011, thus necessitating the above-mentioned H.J. Res. 48
So, how could anyone object to a bill that cuts federal spending by $6 billion by eliminating funding for things like the “International Fund for Ireland” and “Public Telecommunications Facilities, Planning and Construction” and partially rescinding money previously appropriated for things like the “Emergency Steel, Oil, and Gas Guaranteed Loan Program Account” and “Periodic Censuses and Programs”?
Easy, if you actually read the bill.
First, although H.J. Res. 48, Additional Continuing Appropriations Amendments, 2011, eliminates $6 billion in federal spending, it at the same time authorizes over $30 million for “Minority Business Development,” over $152 million for the “Office of National Drug Control Policy,” over $6 million for construction projects of the “Bureau of Land Management,” and millions more for a host of other programs and agencies, including over $33 million for the “Forest Service” for “Land Acquisition.”
Second, the proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2011 is around $3.8 trillion. $6 billion is less than .2 percent of the budget. In other words, the $6 billion cut is statistically meaningless.
And third, on the same day (Mar. 15) that House Republicans passed H.J. Res. 48 with its $6 billion in budget cuts for the year, the national debt increased by $72 billion for the day. According to the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Public Debt, the total national debt began the day at $14.166 trillion ($14,166,030,787,779.80 and ended the day at $14.237 trillion ($14,237,952,276,898.69), an increase of $71.9 billion ($71,921,489,118.89).
Republican budget cutting is nothing but smoke and mirrors. When will Americans who really do treasure liberty and limited government stop trusting in Republican politicians to not be as bad as the Democrats and hoping that perhaps, maybe, possibly this time the Republicans will actually do something toward those ends?