Memo to the 112th Congress: Want to fix what’s wrong? It’s really simple and really difficult: Spend less, balance the budget, grow more.
The true cost of government to the American people is the total amount of spending. And the only way to reduce total government spending is to do less of it, starting soon.
Politicians who wish to continue high levels of government spending work hard to direct America’s focus on the deficit. The deficit is a real enough problem but simply the measure of our failure today and a mask on an accumulation of failures from decades past that threaten to extend into decades future.
For the same reason the Titanic wasn’t sunk by the tip of the iceberg that the lookout saw, the damage done to our economic present and future isn’t measured just by the deficit but by the total amount of spending. It is important that taxpayers and their Congressmen refuse to fall for the kind of misdirection where the magician calls for you to “forget spending — just look at this deficit!”
Post-war political history is full of this voodoo. The spending interests in Washington, D.C., convinced President Ronald Reagan in 1982 that they would cut $3 of spending for every $1 of tax increase that Reagan would permit. The tax hikes were real, painful and permanent; the spending restraint never materialized. Then only eight years later, the same spending interests concocted the infamous Andrews Air Force Base budget summit that negotiated a supposed deficit reduction deal with President George H.W. Bush. It was to cut spending by $2 for every dollar of tax increase. Again, the tax hikes were real and spending increased more rapidly after the deal than before.
Now Lucy is back with her football, hoping we will play the role of the hapless Charlie Brown a third time. At least two commissions or committees have offered to trade tax hikes for spending restraint. But the lesson of recent history is that tax increases are what politicians do when they can’t bring themselves to stop spending.
The last two years have witnessed a spending spree unlike any that didn’t arise from a world war. Democrats who ran the House of Representatives achieved a $700 billion bailout, an $800 billion stimulus package and a $1.3 trillion budget deficit. On top of this, they have passed a financial regulatory bill with regulations affecting access to credit that our small businesses and banks cannot even begin to understand and a tax-and-spend-heavy health care bill with at least a $1 trillion tab.
There are ways to repair the inherent problems, and the STRONG Budget Act will finally do what the spenders, taxers and dealers have not and cannot. If enacted, it will reduce discretionary spending across the board by 2 percent every year until there is no longer a deficit.