The Corner

Politics & Policy

Senator Paul Is Right about Government Spending

Senator Rand Paul is getting a lot of grief for his complaint that the budget resolution going through the Senate right now is busting the Republicans’ own budget caps by over $40 billion. The reason why his obstruction is upsetting so many people is that it is seen as getting in the way of tax reform. Indeed, as everyone recognizes, “the budget is merely a vehicle for passing tax reform with 51 Senate votes.”

Ryan Ellis wrote over at Forbes:

Senator Paul is a key figure in this round of votes. He’s uncomfortable with the budget resolution because of the amount it sets aside for the “Overseas Contingency Operation” (OCO), originally a War on Terror supplemental defense package which has essentially become a way to get around the spending caps on the Pentagon. He is correct on this policy. However, let’s go back to the above — the FY 2018 budget resolution is a document which is wholly meaningless except in one gargantuan respect — it sets up a process for Congress to consider tax reform under the simple majority, expedited mechanism known as “reconciliation.”

This is probably true. And yet, considering the spending history of the Republican party when in power, which Dan Mitchell reminds us of here, we should be concerned that this supposedly wholly meaningless document will become wholly meaningful because it is a prediction of spending levels that will come to pass.

If that’s the case, we should care a great deal because failing to keep spending in check while cutting taxes will inevitably result in higher taxes down the road.

Now, is this a good reason to vote against the budget resolution? Probably not.

But I also know that arguments such as “We can’t address our debt levels by cutting defense spending” or “Only entitlement cuts matter, so who cares about defense caps?” or “No one wants to cut spending, so let’s just focus on tax reform” are not good arguments. They are the reason why we are in this fiscal mess in the first place. It is only a matter of time before too much spending and a failure to reform the drivers of our debt will come back to bite the Republicans where it hurts. Mark my words: One day, this refusal to address our spending issues will lead Republicans to accept a VAT, a carbon tax, and higher marginal tax rates on all Americans.

Ultimately, I am grateful that someone is willing to remind Republicans that they can’t continue to claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility if all they are willing to do is cut taxes.

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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