Rush Limbaugh admitted on his radio show what many of us have known for a long time: “Nobody is a fiscal conservative anymore,” he announced earlier this week. “All this talk about concern for the deficit and the budget has been bogus for as long as it’s been around.”
As if on cue, Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is poised to strike a budget deal with Nancy Pelosi that could add “as much as $2 trillion to the national debt over a decade,” according to a just-released report from The Hill.
Trump’s proposal to cap some domestic spending was DOA in the Democrat-held House, and there’s a deadline coming to raise the debt ceiling or risk default — a chance Mnuchin reportedly doesn’t want to take. Pelosi, on the other hand, isn’t afraid to play chicken with the debt ceiling. When Republicans hold the House and the there’s a government shutdown, that’s the Republicans’ fault. When Democrats hold the House and there’s a government shutdown, that’s the Republicans’ fault, too. You can thank the Democrat-Media Complex for this impossible situation.
Complicating things further, there’s an election coming up, so Mnuchin and Trump don’t have much stomach for a drawn-out fight. As Republican Congressman Tom Cole admitted, “The real good for us is two years of stability, which I think is very important to keep the economy moving in the right direction and government function.”
Our total debt is up by well over $2 trillion on Trump’s watch, with 18 months still to go in his first term. Next year’s deficit, which gets tacked right on to the existing debt, is going to be over one trillion dollars in just one fiscal year. After that, it’s pretty much trillion-dollar annual deficits for as far as the eye can see — and growing nonstop as Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid spending explode. Or as Steely Dan put it, “Things may get a whole lot worse before suddenly falling apart.”
Tax revenues are at record levels, “despite” the GOP tax reform law that kicked in last year. We aren’t fighting any major wars. The economy is humming along, and employment is about as strong as it’s ever been. If there were ever a time to take some fiscal methadone to curb Washington’s addiction to debt, this would be it.
Instead, the Trump White House and the Democratic House are negotiating how much bigger of a hit to take.
So, yeah, it’s safe to say that fiscal conservatism is dead. But it wasn’t Washington that murdered it: It was the American people, who demand free goodies and require zero budget discipline. Which should remind you of something Alexis de Tocqueville warned of almost two centuries ago, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”
We have met the killer, and he is us.