U Can't Touch This

GOP budget cutters in action. (Image courtesy

GOP budget cutters in action.
(Image courtesy

I started reading Kevin Williamson’s NRO piece because I’m interested in how Congress’s new dynamic scoring will — or won’t — work at CBO.

But then I got to this bit and halted:

The fundamental problem with the Republican approach to budgeting is that, with all due respect to such admirable men as Tom Price and Paul Ryan, Republicans have set themselves an impossible task: Balance the budget, forgo tax hikes, increase military spending, and increase spending on Social Security and Medicare. That means cutting your way to a balanced budget while saying that most of the budget has to be protected from cuts.

The House budget proposal would see Social Security spending increase from $921 billion in 2016 to $1.56 trillion in 2025; Medicare would leap from $571 billion to $916 billion; notional defense spending would jump from $523 billion to $687 billion, while non-defense discretionary spending — the “everything else” category of the federal budget — would be lower in 2017–2024 in total-dollar outlays, climbing just a hair north of its 2016 level in 2025.

It’s not just that the GOP plan is doomed to fail to achieve its goals, it’s that the GOP plan is insane.

That’s the only word for it: Insane.

Ever wonder why Washington can’t scrape together enough money to cover essential government functions like border control and infrastructure maintenance? Or why our Navy can’t get enough ships and our Air Force can’t get enough planes? Wonder why we can’t afford unnecessary-but-totally-cool things like moonshots any more?

Part of the problem is that our military procurement system is broken, and so we spend too much money on too few systems which take far too long to deploy. Another part of the problem is that the Department of Transportation is little more than a black hole of Democratic interests, from which not even cash can escape.

But the major problem is that Washington spends trillions it doesn’t have, robbing Peter to pay Paul. Or just as often, robbing Peter to pay Peter. Or even more often, robbing Peter’s and Paul’s grandchildren to pay for Peter’s and Paul’s votes.

That, in a nutshell, is the Entitlement State. Not only is none of it authorized by the Constitution, but it also has the deleterious effect of crowding out legitimate spending priorities. The phrase “non-defense discretionary spending” sounds like it must be the unnecessary stuff, the things Washington shouldn’t be spending on. In fact, it covers most of the things Washington should be doing (and more than a few things it shouldn’t).

A few words now about that spending which is oh-so-essential that Washington calls it “non-discretionary.” That is, the spending which happens automatically, without any of that meddlesome discretion Congress is so famous for.

Washington will spend about 1.2 billion per day on “Health,” a word not mentioned once in the Constitution. Medicare is a separate budget item and comes out to another 1.4 billion per day. Three days of “health” spending would more than pay for an additional Ford-class aircraft carrier for the Navy — an organization which is explicitly mandated by the Constitution. Instead of three days, each Ford has a life expectancy of about 50 years.

The GOP is supposed to be about limited government, yet here they are inflating the onerous entitlements we already can’t afford. The GOP is supposed to be about legitimate government, but its budget plan continues the decades-long process of crowding out legitimate spending.