PJ Media

The Taxman Cometh, and Taketh Away

By the time you finish reading this piece, the federal government will have spent approximately $10 million.

Taxpayers understand April 15 — Tax Day — is a cruel day. In 2011, however, April may be even crueler, as the latest continuing resolution (CR) — the mechanism that is funding the federal government — was passed with minimal spending cuts.

Certainly, taxpayers are frustrated that at a time when the deficit is projected to be $1.6 trillion and the national debt exceeds $14.2 trillion, most members of Congress and the president seem to be tinkering around the edges of spending cuts. Moreover, the shutdown showdown advertised $38.5 billion in spending cuts, which in reality resulted is just $352 million in savings (0.022% of the projected deficit) — or a simple rounding error when putting it up against a trillion-dollar deficit.

According to the Wall Street Journal,

Because some of the cuts would be slow to take effect, and because some of the money was unlikely to be spent in any case, the reduction in actual “outlays” would come to a small percentage of the announced amount.

This type of trickery has been happening since last year. In 2010, not only did Congress fail to pass a budget, they failed to pass appropriations bills for FY 2011. Then, the 111th Congress punted the responsibility to the 112th Congress. When the new Congress convened, there was optimism that spending cuts would be the first order of business, but the optimism quickly faded.

After a vote to de-fund ObamaCare in January, the House then started to play a game of cat and mouse with spending cuts. In fact, the first move by House Republicans was to lower the bar. While they had promised $100 billion in cuts, Republican leadership argued that because four months of the fiscal year had already passed, they only needed to cut $60 billion. Taxpayers were outraged and demanded $100 billion in cuts. With pressure mounting from voters, Republicans finally offered $100 billion in cuts to the FY 2011 CR, which was quickly reduced again to $61 billion after a week of dramatic votes on various amendments.

The much-debated plan, however, was dead on arrival at the Senate. Instead of a year-long CR, the two chambers agreed to a two-week appropriations bill that included $4 billion in cuts — only delaying the inevitable spending discussions.

On April 8, the final CR of the fiscal year was passed, barely avoiding a government shutdown. Certainly, there was much public hand wringing and bickering over the extent of the cuts, and policymakers worked diligently to appear as if there weren’t any places for the budget to be cut.

If Congress is unsure about where to cut, President Obama, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), the Congressional Budget Office, and the Government Accountability Office have outlined ideas to cut spending and eliminate duplication that could save taxpayers trillions of dollars. Unfortunately, however, President Obama’s latest foray into fiscal conservatism is a plan that counts on raising taxes, rather than cutting spending. Simply put, he isn’t taking the spending crisis seriously — and neither are many in Washington, using the debate as a battleground for competing rhetoric rather than hosting a serious conversation about America’s bottom line. Taxpayers simply can’t afford that.