Democrats have excused their binge-spending and oversized deficits by pointing back at Republicans and saying, “Look who’s talking.” And it’s true: Republicans have to own their inability to control spending when they were in power. But any independents out there who thought they were getting more honest and less partisan government with the election of Barack Obama should take a good hard look at how this year’s appropriations fight is shaping up.
As Brian outlines below, the omnibus spending bill that just passed the House rivals any of the earmark-laden monstrosities from the Dennis Hastert era, both in baseline inflation and in pure waste. It is solid evidence that Democrats’ jibes at Republicans for failing to control spending are mere rhetorical lures designed to attract independent voters. The other way to exercise fiscal discipline is to raise taxes. But, as Obama never tires of pointing out, his party has cut taxes, or more accurately it has handed out billions in payroll-tax rebates and other forms of “targeted” tax relief. At some point, Democrats will almost certainly let the top tax rates snap back to pre-Bush levels, but that won’t be enough to pay for all the spending they want. Hark, independents: The only thing the Democrats have changed with respect to the nation’s finances is the magnitude of the deficits and the duration of time that we are likely to endure them.
As for more transparent government, take a look at how the Democrats plan to pass Stimulus III:
Passage of the omnibus spending measure leaves only one more appropriations bill for the House to tackle — the one funding the Pentagon. Leaders have deliberately held back that measure, as they discuss what other legislation can be tacked onto it when the chamber takes up the bill next week. The defense measure will serve as the vehicle for all or part of the job-creation package President Obama has requested, along with an increase in the federal debt limit and a handful of other must-pass legislation.
This is an old trick: The party in power piles a bunch of spending that would never pass on its own into a defense appropriations bill (or a war-funding supplemental), and then blasts anyone who opposes the Frankenstein of an omnibus as being soft on national security. Democrats used to whine a lot when Republicans did this kind of stuff. The joke is on anyone who believed they would act differently once in power.
Conservatives have every reason to be disappointed with the GOP’s inability to control spending when it ruled Washington. Unfortunately, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, Republicans are the worst party on fiscal discipline except for all the others that have been tried.