From the gates, let’s be clear – both Republicans and Democrats have contributed handsomely to the national debt. It has been going on for decades, and no President has ever managed to make significant enough changes to U.S. spending to make a real impact. The one President who had a balanced budget was Bill Clinton, but this had less to do with Clinton or even the Republican controlled Congress at the time, than the massive tech-boom, that in 2001 would end with a major bust.
George W Bush managed to spend more than every President prior to him and bring the national debt to just under $10 trillion by the end of his second term. Barack Obama, who had campaigned on the evils of never-ending debt, followed suit, and again spent more than every President prior to him, and the debt ballooned to just under $20 trillion. Neither President, nor any Congress in their terms, made strong pushes to reel in spending. The closest was Paul Ryan’s push during Obama’s first term, the “Ryan Plan”, for a cut in the rate of growth, but not an actual cut in spending.
During much of the Obama years, Congress neglected to actually pass a real budget. Instead, Congress would pass “continuing resolutions”, or “CR bills”, that basically kept all of the spending the same. Some minor changes were made here and there, but by and large, there was no reform or any attempt to address the problems with saddling the nation’s children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, with trillions in debt, and soon-to-be unaffordable interest payments. Lo and behold, here we are again.
On April 28th, the current “budget” will expire, and hence will require another continuing resolution. The 2017 CR bill is needed in order for government to “stay open”. If the bill is not passed, all non-essential federal employees will be laid off, and all non-mandatory payments (which would exclude military checks, social security checks, medicare reimbursements, etc) would be stalled.
Senator John McCain (AZ) has promised to vote against any budget or continuing resolution that does not include increases in military spending. “I will not vote for a CR no matter what the consequences because passing a CR destroys the ability of the military to defend this nation, and it puts the lives of the men and women in the military at risk.” Keeping military spending where it is would “limit” the budget to $523.9 billion.
Other Republicans are busy arguing about funding Planned Parenthood and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Democrats are vowing to vote against the bill if it includes funding for a border wall. Neither party is bothering to mention the two main drivers of America’s debt – social security and Medicare.
While “defense” spending is a large portion of the budget today, given current projections, the defense budget as a portion of GDP shrinks in the coming decades, whereas social security and Medicare increase as a percentage of GDP. Major overhauls of both of these programs are needed if America is to get its spending under control. Petty fights about abortion, the military, and NPR are only meant to distract citizens from politicians who refuse to make tough decisions on the important aspects of America’s budget.
With Republicans now controlling the Presidency and both houses of Congress, now is the time for them to show what they were all along during the Obama debt growth – all talk. With all of the power in their hands, Republicans will kick the can down the road again and spend the dollars America’s children have yet to earn.