Republican Leaders’ Budget Hypocrisy

The Paul Ryan-Patty Murray federal budget deal amounts to saving two days of federal spending over the next decade.

That’s a sliver of a sliver, and that’s assuming future Congresses follow through on today’s promises. Of course, this rarely happens because no Congress can force a future Congress to do anything.

Federal spending totaled $3.5 trillion in fiscal 2013 and would rise to $3.6 trillion in 2014 (President Barack Obama wants nearly $3.8 trillion of spending), up more than 40 percent since 2002 even after adjusting for inflation. With spending of approximately $3.6 trillion, the government spends approximately $10 billion a day. The Ryan-Murray deal would let discretionary spending rise by $63 billion over the next couple of years. Over the next 10 years they’d cut it to generate a net savings of $22.5 billion.

That totals approximately two days of federal spending, 1/1,825th of federal spending over a decade at current spending rates.

The deal overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives a few days ago, and then passed the Senate. House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican establishment leaders have lashed out at conservatives and Tea Party-types who oppose the deal:

They are not fighting for conservative policy. They are fighting to expand their lists, raise more money and grow their organizations, and they are using you to do it. It’s ridiculous.

For most years since 2002, when federal spending began its 40 percent inflation-adjusted increase, the self-described “compassionate conservative” Republican George W. Bush occupied the White House, and in some of those Bush years Republicans controlled both the House and Senate. Spending under this GOP power climbed much faster than it has under Democrat Barack Obama -- though this is due in large part to resistance by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in response to pressure from the Tea Party. In fact, spending under Bush climbed more than under any president since Lyndon Baines Johnson, who bequeathed the nation a huge escalation in the Vietnam War (we lost), Medicare (it’s insolvent), and the War on Poverty (we’ve been losing for decades).

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the supposed “fiscal hawk” Republican budget negotiator, voted for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program that Bush foisted on the nation shortly before he left office, a program that polls showed Americans overwhelmingly opposed. Ryan also supported Bush’s huge Medicare expansion for prescription drugs -- the largest entitlement increase since Medicare was created in the 1960s and the first to be done without one penny of revenue designated to pay for it. Ryan supported Bush’s failed economic stimulus spending. Ryan supported virtually all the Bush-era spending increases. Now, we get a promise to cut 1/1,825 of federal spending over a decade. Combine this paltry promise with the recent history of federal spending under a Republican president who, for a time, also enjoyed Republicans in charge of the House and the Senate, and who had Republicans in charge of the House for most of his term.

Some people actually believe in limiting the size and power of government. Republican leaders say they believe in it, but when was the last time they acted upon these beliefs?

The Republican base is angry that Republican establishment leaders don’t act on their professed beliefs, and the leaders are angry because the base wants them to practice what they preach. Which stance is more honorable?