Politics & Policy

The Bipartisan Push to Increase Spending and the National Debt

(Photo: Victor Savushkin/Dreamstime)
We are at a point where every additional drop of red ink counts.

Once again, we are reminded that “bipartisan” is Washington-speak for “Hang on to your wallet.”

Democrats, Republicans, and the Trump administration have reached a bipartisan agreement to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. Much of the media is trumpeting the agreement as proof that “both sides can work together.” Sure they can . . . if the goal is to further fleece the taxpayer.

Republicans wanted more spending for defense. Democrats wanted more spending for domestic programs. The bipartisan answer: more spending for everything. The agreement, which could be voted on as early as today, includes a roughly $25 billion increase in defense spending (including both the base defense budget and overseas contingency spending). That represents a 3.5 percent hike over fiscal year 2016.

The case for a big hike in defense is dubious, but even more troubling is some $38 billion in other spending, including significant hikes in domestic discretionary spending. President Trump might have talked about defunding wasteful government agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Institutes of Health, and the Appalachian Regional Commission, but this agreement actually increases spending for them. The budget agreement even tosses in additional spending for “green energy” programs. There are also the usual increases in spending for national parks, disaster relief, global food aid, and so forth. Oh yes, the budget also extends subsidies to insurance companies under Obamacare. And, of course, there is no effort in this bill to reform entitlement spending.

Taken all together, the $1.1 trillion spending agreement increases federal spending by $63 billion over last year. Yay, bipartisanship.

That might not seem like a lot, but we are at a point where every additional drop of red ink counts. Last month, the Congressional Budget Office warned that the national debt will double as a share of the national economy by mid century. Trillion-dollar budget deficits are expected to return within the decade. Interest payments on the debt will rise from $270 billion in 2017 to $768 billion in 2027. Our total indebtedness, including the unfunded liabilities of programs such as Social Security and Medicare, approaches $100 trillion.

This budget deal should once and for all put an end to the narrative that President Trump is different because ‘he fights.’

There will be a tendency to blame this monument to red ink on Paul Ryan and the congressional Republican leadership. They certainly deserve their share. After all, they negotiated this dog’s breakfast. They own it. Day by day, Republicans in Congress prove that they have no intention of shrinking the size or cost of government.

However, we shouldn’t let the president off the hook, either. The Trump administration was fully vested in this outcome. In fact, the president’s budget director described the budget agreement as “a solid deal.”

The administration was desperate to avoid the optics of a government shutdown, and President Trump has never cared about deficits or the level of government spending. Still, this budget deal should once and for all put an end to the narrative that President Trump is different because “he fights.” This is a president who cares much more about “winning” than about what he wins.

Inevitably, we will be told that the next budget fight will be different. Already President Trump has tweeted a threat to shut down the government if he doesn’t get his way . . . in September. Don’t count on it.

Meanwhile, he is promising to introduce his $1 trillion plan for increased infrastructure spending within the next month. Democrats are already suggesting that that could be the sort of bipartisan proposal they could work with. Yep, more bipartisanship.

Funny, I don’t feel like celebrating.


Trump’s Budget Bill is Unsatisfactory

Donald Trump’s Budget Policies are Unrealistic

Budget Proposal Unveiling is a Game Disconnected from Reality

Michael Tanner — Michael Tanner is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of Going for Broke: Deficits, Debt, and the Entitlement Crisis. You can follow him on his blog, TannerOnPolicy.com.

Most Popular


Trump’s Disgraceful Press Conference in Helsinki

On Monday, President Trump gave a deeply disgraceful press conference with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. The presser began with Trump announcing that although the Russia–U.S. relationship has “never been worse than it is now,” all of that “changed as of about four hours ago.” It was downhill from ... Read More

Democrats Are Dumping Moderates

The activist base of the Democratic party is lurching left fast enough that everyone should pay attention. Activists matter because their turnout in low-turnout primaries and caucuses almost propelled leftist Bernie Sanders to victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Last month, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unseated New ... Read More

Questions for Al Franken

1)Al, as you were posting on social media a list of proposed questions for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, did it occur to you that your opinion on the matter is no more relevant than Harvey Weinstein’s? 2) Al, is it appropriate for a disgraced former U.S. senator to use the Twitter cognomen “U.S. ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Strzok by a Farce

An investigation is one of two things: a search for the truth, or a farce. The House is conducting a farce. That fact was on full display during ten hours of testimony by Peter Strzok, the logorrheic lawman who steered the FBI’s Clinton-emails and Trump–Russia probes. The principal question before the ... Read More
Film & TV

Stalin at the Movies

Toward the end of The Death of Stalin, two Communist Party bosses size up Joseph Stalin’s immediate successor, Georgy Malenkov. “Can we trust him?” one asks. “Can you ever really trust a weak man?” his comrade answers. Good question. Last week brought the news that the head of Shambhala ... Read More