All of you fiscal conservatives who keep demanding that we pass a law for a balanced federal budget? Give it up. A federal budget that doesn’t leak at the seams and rack up unimaginable debt for every taxpaying American is unthinkable. It goes against the fundamental rule of politics: at all costs, curry favor with the people. Besides, if you think Washington can change the way it funds its affairs then we better start with what the people expect their government to do.
People over politics or government over people?
It is sad yet amusing that the head of the House Democratic Caucus is promoting the Affordable Care Act as a way to “put people over politics:”
Instead, let’s put people over politics and build on the successes of the Affordable Care Act, so we can offer affordable health security to even more hard-working families.1
Instead of putting people over politics, putting government on top of the people is how Obamacare supports the middle and working classes. Obama doesn’t have a problem fining them for not carrying health insurance any more than he has a problem ratcheting up their debt while misrepresenting the real trend in the federal budget deficit (see: Working Class War: How Obama Will Fight It).
During the 2013 government shutdown, Democrats lamented the lack of spending for hard working families. Demanding that we “Get Money Out of Politics,” Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth summed his party’s stance on spending in light of the Citizens United decision:
At a time when we should be encouraging more people to get involved in politics, Citizens United and McCutcheon have widened the gap between Americans and their government. I want to close that gap.2
Though laughable, Yarmuth’s comment shows remarkable insight for a Democrat. The goal of the left is to seal the gap by enslaving the people to their government, to make us so reliant on federal spending and dependent on what that spending promises to provide that we are willing to throw away our country’s economic future. When the government can’t spend any more, the debt will still be there to shackle us to our federal overseers.
The Congressional Budget Office warned where this trend is headed when it updated last summer’s budget forecast:
When CBO last issued long-term budget projections (in July 2014), it projected that, under current law, debt would exceed 100 percent of GDP 25 years from now and would continue on an upward trajectory thereafter—a trend that could not be sustained. (The 10-year projections presented here do not materially change that outlook.)3
Given all the doomsday predictions we have heard about federal debt, shouldn’t the fact that our two parties still battle over how much more to spend tell us how close we are to a balanced budget?
Balanced federal budget is up to the people. Do we want it?
Much as we would like to blame the government for spending us into bankruptcy, the federal budget is only partially the government’s fault. A good deal of it is our fault. We the people are the ones with the responsibility to make sure that realistic spending cuts happen. Unfortunately, we are also the same people who voted Obama into office not once, but twice. The second time we knew what we were getting. What did Democratic voters expect in return?
In yesterday’s weekly address the president continued to bang on his “fair shot” agenda, reinforcing the Obama vision of a racially, economically, and socially unfair, unjust society that needs to be reordered by government. At the same time he claims to advocate for working families, his immigration order opens the door to handing out Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare benefits to illegal immigrants while his party continues to insist that these programs are bedrock protections for the middle class.
Balanced federal budget: no food and no health care?
We have been down the balanced federal budget amendment road many times. With Republicans taking over Congress the discussion will be resurrected but in the back of our minds conservatives have to know this quest will go nowhere until Americans are ready to cut back.
Congressman Scott Perry (R-PA) reminded us what it would take to pass a balanced budget amendment:
Forty-nine states currently are required annually to balance their budgets. To secure passage of a constitutional amendment, a bill must pass the U.S. House and U.S. Senate by a two-thirds vote. Then, three-fourths of all state Legislatures must ratify the amendment.4
That’s not going to happen. Given the acrimony over where taxpayer money should go, the kind of numbers that passing a balanced federal budget amendment would require would be almost impossible to muster. Even in states like Illinois where it was entirely foreseeable for years that taxpayers would be ruined by debt, the spending continued. The federal budget is no different.
Recent charges leveled at the Obama administration for misrepresenting the employment situation should give us a hint as to how cutting the budget will be received by Americans. Food stamp spending rose to over $74 billion in 2014 compared to $37.64 billion in 2008.5 Recent CMS numbers show that combined federal and state Medicaid spending rose from $344.68 billion in 2008 to $449.39 billion in 2013.6 Medicare rose from $467.07 billion in 2008 to $585.7 billion in 2013.7 How do you balance the budget and reign in benefit and entitlement spending when the people are being told by the head of their government:
It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next 15 years and for decades to come.
Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?8
The numbers of “everyone who makes an effort” are rising. If Obama gets his way, they will soon include four million more illegal immigrants who will require even more social spending (see: New Report Confirms Cost of Illegal Immigrants). As long as there is a political left, a balanced budget law would up the ante for our increasingly destructive spending battles and shift the emphasis to raising taxes. It certainly wouldn’t prevent escalating shutdowns until voters curb their appetite for handouts to allow for some resource shifting.
When it comes to the federal budget, we the people are a big part of the problem. Once you have given people something, it is difficult or impossible to take it away. Historically our government rarely gives away less over time. It gives away more. Until the people stop expecting more, federal and state budgets are going to keep on growing until the people have nothing left but their tax bills.