Heated disagreement over how Trump and company want to spend our money might be our own fault. Poll numbers show we are pretty fickle about what we expect from government. In a recent Pew Research poll 64% of respondents believe the GOP “is too willing to cut programs.”1 On the flip side 61% say Democrats view “government as the only way to solve problems.”2 An April 2016 Gallup Poll reported that 57% of us, the “Most Americans in 15 Years,” say we pay too much federal income tax.3 44% of those who believe the federal take is too high were Democrats.4 Is there any sense to these contradictory beliefs on how government should spend?
That’s a puzzler. How can Washington give more while it lowers our taxes and spends less money? It can’t, but that doesn’t mean it won’t try.
Government should spend how much?
If government is the fix for our problems then government should spend. Spending is something it does very well, but first it needs lots of money.
A new Congressional Budget Office update on the economy shows rising deficits on the horizon and a $109 billion bump to this year’s deficit.5 Why? So the government can take care of us without charging more:
The projected rise in deficits would be the result of rapid growth in spending for federal retirement and health care programs targeted to older people and to rising interest payments on the government’s debt, accompanied by only moderate growth in revenue collections.6
Government debt is at the highest level we’ve seen since just after the Second World War.7 It will explode from the current $15 trillion to $26 trillion ten years from now.8
The conundrum is that we expect the Federal Government to fix problems like poverty and health care that years of spending haven’t solved. Then we complain that the spending costs us too much.
There was a better way, but that just blew up in our faces.
Republicans: what is “give people a chance” supposed to mean?
The GOP made this heady statement before the Republican “Better Way” agenda fell apart after the party refused to make good on promises to get rid of Obamacare:
If the American Dream isn’t true for everyone, it isn’t true for anyone. All of us should have the chance to make the most of our lives no matter where we start.9
If you are a Democrat you will understand that enigmatic statement very differently from a Republican.
With chances to make things better slipping away and the White House distracted by a protracted, slowly evolving scandal, the Republican House has turned to a budget designed for “Building a Better America:”
Some will disagree with our budget, but the status quo is unacceptable. Our budget is one of sustainability, smaller government, stronger national security, and greater freedom for individuals. The status quo is unsustainable spending, higher deficits and debt, higher taxes, bigger government, and more federal control over the lives of Americans.10
The problem for Republicans is that many of us want all of the things their budget promises and all of the things that created government debt, deficits, and higher taxes. The GOP won’t deliver both. Democrats don’t seem to care.
Democrats: government should spend on whatever we want
At the extreme end of the spectrum we have a sham spending plan from progressives that embodies the belief that the government should spend lots of cash on the same things that have proved time and again to be big vote getters whether they work or not.
More moderate Democrats also stick to the “government should spend more” party line. They provided a glossary for the Republican budget so leftists can understand it. For example:
Empower individuals: Used by the GOP to make their plans to take away critical economic protections and leave people on their own sound more appealing.11
If you understand how we pay for “critical economic protections” then you can guess how Democrats feel about the push to reform the tax code that will be front and center now that conservative health care is in the garbage. Accumulating cash is paramount. Whether it gets us anything is a separate matter left to angry House floor debates.
Health care disaster shows we are hypocrites
A June 2017 Pew Research poll found that 85% of Democrats and “Democratic-leaning independents” think the government should make sure we all have health care.12 64% believe this should come from a single-payer system.13
When you toss in the other poll numbers this means that a lot of people who have their hands out for a massive federal health care plan also want the government to spend less and for their taxes to go down.
The CBO found that Trump’s budget proposal would lower the deficit and reduce the public debt.14 This will appeal to Americans who want to pay less taxes, but if they have their hands out and expect to have it both ways they will be disappointed. Doing more with less is the definition of deficit. That’s a problem the government should spend to solve, but we keep demanding that Washington make it worse.
1. “Public Has Criticisms of Both Parties, but Democrats Lead on Empathy for Middle Class.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. June 20, 2017. http://www.people-press.org/2017/06/20/public-has-criticisms-of-both-parties-but-democrats-lead-on-empathy-for-middle-class/, retrieved July 17, 2017.
3. “Most Americans in 15 Years Say Their Tax Bill Is Too High.” GALLUP. April 14, 2016. http://www.gallup.com/poll/190778/americans-years-say-tax-bill-high.aspx?g_source=position4&g_medium=related&g_campaign=tiles, retrieved July 19, 2017.
5. “An Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook: 2017 to 2017.” Congressional Budget Office. June 2017. p. 2. https://www.cbo.gov/publication/52801, retrieved July 19, 2017.
6. Ibid., p. 1.
7. Ibid., p. 5.
9. “A Better Way. Poverty.” http://abetterway.speaker.gov/?page=poverty, retrieved July 18, 2017.
10. “Building a Better America. A Plan for Fiscal Responsibility.” Building a Better America. p. 3. https://budget.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Building-a-Better-America-PDF-1.pdf, retrieved July 18, 2017.
11. “A GOP Budget Decoder.” House committee on the Budget. Democrats. May 15, 2017. https://democrats-budget.house.gov/publications/fact-sheet/gop-budget-decoder, retrieved July 18, 2017.
12. Kiley, Jocelyn. “Public support for ‘single payer’ health coverage grows, driven by Democrats.” Pew Research Center. June 23, 2017. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/06/23/public-support-for-single-payer-health-coverage-grows-driven-by-democrats/, retrieved July
14. “An Analysis of the President’s 2018 Budget.” Congressional Budget Office. July 13, 2017. https://www.cbo.gov/publication/52846#section0, retrieved July 19, 2017.