More, More, More
Watch what they spend, not what they say.
When it comes to spending, the Democrats who run Washington can't decide on their message. On the one hand, as President Obama said this week, they claim we have to "spend our way out of this recession." On the other, they keep telling us the deficit is too large and isn't "sustainable." In this tug of political spin, watch what they spend, not what they say.
And that means watching this weekend's expected Senate vote on a 1,088-page $445 billion "omnibus" package of spending bills to fund the government for fiscal 2010. The House passed a similar elephant earlier this week, allowing federal agency budgets to increase spending by some $48 billion, or about 12% from 2009. That increasewhen inflation is negligibleis in addition to the $311 billion in stimulus already authorized or out the door for these programs. Adding this new stash means that federal agencies will have received a nearly 70% increase in the last two years.
Oh, and that's not all. The President and Congress also want to spend as much as $200 billion more from the Troubled Asset Relief Program on still another stimulus, though this time we are supposed to call it a "jobs" program, because stimulus now has a dirty political name.
This $445 billion bill for 2010 covers most of the domestic agencies of government, but not defense. In the first two months of this fiscal year, which began October 1, Uncle Sam is already $292 billion in the red. That's more than in the first two months of last year and at a time when the economy is growing again, so perhaps the President means we need to keep spending our way out of recovery. After the spending bill, Congress will then turn to passing a $1.8 trillion increase in the national debt ceiling, which should get them past the November elections.
Not that the press corps cares anymore, but the omnibus also continues the earmark explosion that Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed to end when she was trying to oust Republicans in 2006. The Heritage Foundation counts 5,224 earmarks, bringing the total for the year to about 10,000, or about 23 for every Congressional district. There is money for bike paths, skate board parks, museums, water-taxis to resort towns, and other absolute necessities.
Senator Kent Conrad, the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee, is a walking example of the split Democratic spending personality. He frets that U.S. debt will soon be 114% of GDP, a level he says is "absolutely unsustainable" and a "threat to the economic security of America." Yet he keeps voting for every spending bill and will vote for the multitrillion health bill too.
Even harder to figure is Mr. Obama, who is likely to sign this budget behemoth even as he keeps telling us it's time to "make the hard choices necessary to get our country on a more stable fiscal footing in the long run." Word is that his 2011 budget proposal will propose a spending freeze of some kind, which is another election-year pivot.
After so much double talk, we've concluded this is all part of a conscious political strategy. Spend so much and run up the deficit to unprecedented levels, then turn around and claim that there's a fiscal crisis that can only be solved with higher taxes. They spend, you pay.