It has become a frequent government spectacle that fiscally irresponsible Big Government Democrats and establishment Republicans decry gloom and doom whenever fiscally responsible conservatives demand that the government live within its means by reducing the automatic spending increases mandated by the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
Prior to 1974, the budget process consisted of an arcane operation whereby a president would submit a budget request to Congress which would then pass appropriation acts in response. The process was controlled by powerful committee chairmen and resulted in ad hoc budgets passed piecemeal with little consideration of the overall spending impact. The president also exercised the power of impoundment whereby he could refuse to spend appropriated amounts. This impoundment power was exercised on small amounts in consultation with committee chairmen until President Nixon began using it on a large scale to eliminate federal agencies. Title X of the Congressional Budget Control Act of 1974 eliminated the president’s power to impound funds appropriated by Congress.
The CBA was intended to streamline the budget process by creating the Congressional Budget Office to impartially calculate the true cost of legislation and more accurately estimate government revenues. Over the years, the CBO has become a highly partisan entity while failing miserably to accurately estimate either costs or revenues. While the CBA did fix the problem of presidential impoundment, it also created a plethora of unintended consequences that continues to bedevil the budget process leading to even more of the budgetary brinkmanship it was intended to eliminate.
In response to the increasingly contentious problem of deficit spending that continues to sink America into an abyss of debt, various proposals have been floated to magically force Congress to live within its means by eliminating the fiscal chicanery inherent in the budget process. One of the more popular ideas has been adoption of the Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Proponents of the BBA claim that its adoption would force Congress to annually pass a balanced budget that would eliminate deficit spending, but their arguments fail to consider historical precedent and human nature.
As mentioned above, the BCA set out to streamline the budget process and eliminate the president’s impoundment power, but it also unleashed unintended consequences that have arguably made the budget process much worse, more susceptible to presidential power, and further politicized the process with political brinksmanship. A cursory review of American politics should make clear that the best intentions enacted as law will always unleash unintended consequences due to the fact that Congress is composed of individuals with disparate interests who will cleverly find ways to elude the intentions of any law that blocks their ability to realize those interests. Since no system can be perfectly designed to eliminate human avarice, and human avarice will always be present since eventually even the best of intentions break down confronting the gray areas of reality, it is foolish to believe that there will be no unintended consequences to adoption of the BBA.
It has become predictable that the Big Government spenders in Congress will use the provisions of the BCA mandating fiscal restraint to call for tax increases to cover the increased spending they seek each year to perpetuate their fiefdoms and expand government to expand their fiefdoms. Conservative calls to reduce the level of mandated spending increases are met with Big Government cries of cutting the budget to eliminate spending on the poor when the reality is that conservatives have merely called for the mandated 10% spending increase to be reduced to a 3% spending increase. Only in the alternate reality of politics could a spending increase be vilified as a spending decrease, but such is the reality of the contortions unleashed by the BCA and its various amendments.
It should be no great leap of imagination to reason that the Big Government spenders will abuse the intentions of the BBA to demand tax increases to cover their appetite for increased spending. They will point to the BBA for justification of these tax increases while smugly reminding conservatives that it was they who pushed for the BBA over the objections of the Big Government spenders in a duplicitous demonstration of arrogance that distracts from the more relevant base argument that spending shouldn’t be increased in the first place. And, since the BBA will be a constitutional amendment, it will carry even greater power to force the adoption of tax increases while providing the Big Government spenders greater cover they will use to deflect responsibility for these tax increases.
As evidence of the likelihood of Big Government spenders using laws championed by conservatives to promote the fiscal responsibility congressmen are unwilling to exercise on their own, consider the recent report from Bloomberg describing how Democrats are considering using the debt ceiling as justification to thwart President Trump’s proposed tax cuts. The increasingly frequent need for Congress to undertake the charade of raising the debt ceiling and morphing it into an existential government crisis to wring concessions from conservatives because the establishment Republican wing of the Big Government party is unwilling to allow a government shutdown for fear of the media thrashing they know is coming creates another opportunity for Big Government spenders to hide behind conservative laws to oppose conservative initiatives. Given all the evidence, we can expect no less than that the Big Government spenders will use the BBA as an excuse to raise taxes to cover their increased spending.
On a personal level, we are all forced to live somewhat within our means as our income must be stretched to cover our expenses. This means we can’t go out and buy everything we see because we’ll eventually exhaust our bank accounts and credit limits, but Congress theoretically has no credit limit since it authorizes the printing of currency. When Congress runs out of money, it just prints more. In reality, there exists an abstract limit to the ability of Congress to continue printing money based on the value of the dollar. As more dollars are printed, each dollar becomes worth a little less until enough extra dollars are printed that this decline in value shows up as inflation. This abstraction is perfectly illustrated by the impending collapse currently unfolding in Venezuela as spiraling inflation leaves citizens unable to support themselves.
The real problem with the budget process is a lack of accountability when it comes to increased spending. Just as we have to practice fiscal restraint on a personal level to avoid incurring a mountain of debt leading to a personal bankruptcy, so too should Congress be forced to practice fiscal restraint to avoid unnecessary deficit spending. The problem is that individual members of Congress aren’t responsible for the debts they pile up and the money they spend is not their personal money, but our tax money. Spending money belonging to others without restraint is easy, and incurring debt on behalf of others is also easy. Even corporations manage to live within their means as they are beholden to a board of directors and corporate shareholders who ultimately own the corporation. Reckless fiscal mismanagement results in declining stock prices and eventual receivership as the corporation is forced into bankruptcy and liquidation resulting in lost investment savings and worker jobs.
President Trump campaigned on a promise to bring fiscal restraint to government through his experience as a successful businessman running large profitable corporations. Americans tired of watching their taxes increase while Congress refuses to adopt the fiscal restraint these voters are forced to live with daily flocked to the Trump bandwagon and elected him president. Now, President Trump is seeking to make good on his campaign promises by calling for the elimination of dozens of federal agencies that serve no purpose other than the creation of government jobs, but he is facing a firestorm of protest from the Big Government spenders desperate to obstruct his policies of fiscal prudence despite the mountain of debt currently burying America. These obstructionists weep and moan in melodramatic fashion that Americans will suffer under these draconian cuts as if civilization itself will cease when the reality is that America was doing just fine before their creation in the first place. In doing this, these Big Government spenders reveal themselves to be the spending and tax increasers that they are and reveal their incapability to exercise the faintest restraint on government.
Ronald Reagan demonstrated the power of tax cuts and restrained spending to ignite the economy and lead to prosperity. His predecessor, Jimmy Carter, mired the economy in a downwardly spiraling recession that sapped the country of hope and caused many to believe America’s best days were behind her, but President Reagan managed to restore our hope and our belief that America could be made great again with his supply-side economic plan. Democrats and the liberal media savaged President Reagan’s economic plan as a giveaway to the rich and derisively labeled it “trickle-down economics.” President Carter’s adherence to the failed socialist economic theories of British economist John Maynard Keynes, which were responsible for prolonging the Great Depression of the 1930’s and fared no better in the 1970s, were also promoted by President Obama to the same detrimental effect over the past eight years. The difference was that President Carter was merely inept when it came to economics while President Obama intentionally set about to wreck the economy and facilitate increased government dependence to advance the regressive agenda.
President Trump is acutely aware of President Reagan’s success using tax cuts and decreased regulation to promote economic growth, but so are the regressives seeking to obstruct President Trump’s policies precisely because they will highlight the failures of regressive policies for another generation which wasn’t around to see the Reagan administration in action. Reagan’s economic plan was hampered by Democrats controlling Congress who insisted on phasing in his tax cuts over three years. The effect was moribund growth during these three years that were responsible for the deficits Reagan incurred rebuilding the military which Carter had allowed to seriously deteriorate. However, once the tax cuts were fully phased in after the third year, the economy launched into overdrive and the previous deficits became surpluses as increased economic activity increased tax receipts. Enactment of President Trump’s economic plan of deregulation and tax cuts will forever sully the poor economic record of the Obama administration and tarnish a legacy in which so many regressives have invested so much stock.
Unlike President Bush who sought to remove himself from public life and refrain from speaking out against his successor, President Obama has taken the offensive against President Trump to feebly defend his legacy. It’s an exercise in futility as Obama will never be esteemed by us cognizant conservatives, and he will never be vilified by his regressive base. Obama can try to blame Bush for leaving him with a mess, but America tired of that old excuse years ago.
There is a massive Deep State effort to thwart President Trump’s ability to eliminate unnecessary government agencies carried out by regressive sympathizers seeded throughout the government by the Obama administration. The constant leaking of classified information by the various spy agencies is evidence that they should have never been entrusted with the powers granted them in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Benjamin Franklin warned that we must never grant power to the government because it would eventually be used against us and we would never be able to reclaim that power. Franklin also warned that Americans who traded their liberty for the illusion of security deserved neither liberty nor security. Their power to spy on Americans egregiously violates the Fourth Amendment, and the hollow defense offered by Americans who shrug their shoulders and declare they have nothing to hide is no excuse. The federal government should not have the right to conduct fishing expeditions on targeted Americans and release their personal details to a ravenous and biased media eager to destroy lives in service to their leftist agenda. Even though anonymous Americans may not be hiding anything today, they may very well need to hide something tomorrow. If Great Britain had possessed the power of America’s spy agencies to surveil Americans, then the Revolutionary War would have never happened as its planners would have been quickly rounded up and hanged.
Americans voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton because they saw a stark contrast between a candidate dedicated to applying sound business principles to government and restoring eroded liberties to Americans, and a candidate dedicated to expanding the power of government to control the lives of Americans in service to a rejected agenda of socialism. The idea of fiscal responsibility resonates with Americans forced to live responsibly every day and aghast that the government is allowed to engage in fiscal irresponsibility that would land any of us in jail. Eight years of Obama administration stonewalling and opaqueness has left us with a desire for transparency and straight talk, and President Trump offers that in spades.