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The most important lesson to be learned from the last 20 years of American government is this: absolute power grows government absolutely.
Voters have given control of the presidency and Congress to one party on three occasions since 1992. They have yet to like the results. The first was in 1992 with the election of Bill Clinton and a Democrat Congress. The second was the election of a Republican House and Senate to join President George W. Bush in 2004. Most recently the tide that swept Barack Obama and the Democrats to total control in 2008 appears to be rapidly receding just two years later.
These reversals typically occur because the winning party interprets its election as a mandate for its policies, when it is usually only a repudiation of the policies and personalities of the incumbents.
One-party rule is especially bad for federal budgets because successful spending plans are forged on hard choices and compromise. Balanced opposition emboldens each side to say no to the other. This is important in crafting the federal budget since no law requires that it be balanced. By contrast, with one-party rule in Washington there are no constraints; the majority gets what it wants. In the last two years this resulted in $2.7 trillion in deficit spending, an amount greater than total federal spending in 2005.
Due to the complete lack of fiscal responsibility in our capitol over the last 10 years, we are heading for financial disaster. All it will take is one failed Treasury auction to trigger it. Some day the foreigners who buy the billions in debt issued every month by this country will balk. When they do, interest rates will shoot up, the economy will collapse, and the country will be shaken to its core. Every entity dependent on federal funding – the military, universities, social services, hospitals – will become shells of what they once were. The only defense against this coming catastrophe is to restore a balance of power in Washington.
Currently, whether or not to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans dominates debate. Our colossal deficits, however, are the result not of revenue shortfalls, but of spending increases. If one needs proof, consider these facts: if every American paid federal income taxes twice last year we would still have run a deficit. And if all the Bush tax cuts were repealed, the deficit would still be nearly $1.1 trillion in 2011. Clearly, spending is out of control.
So how do we get this country back on sound financial footing? Let’s look back to the last time it was done. Bill Clinton was elected as a moderate Democrat in 1992. In his first two years his administration’s fortunes went south due to advocating policies like Hillarycare. Voters checked him by electing a Republican Congress in 1994. Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich took the hard road in their budget battles. They even temporarily shut down the federal government twice, but they balanced the budget and prosperous times followed.
In 2002, voters rewarded President George W. Bush with a Republican Congress.
Deficits soon began to grow due to shenanigans like 55,000 earmarks, misguided global military adventures, and a massive prescription drug entitlement. Once again, at a very high cost, it was proven that one party cannot be trusted with total control of Washington.
Yet, in 2008 voters expanded the Democrats’ margins in Congress and elected Obama president. He had rightly criticized the deficits under the Bush administration, but once in office he saw those deficits and raised them four-fold.
Of course, presidents can only propose and sign budgets. Congress actually crafts them. That process begins in the U.S. House of Representatives with our own congressman, Rep. John Spratt, chairman of the Budget Committee.
For years Spratt has portrayed himself as a deficit hawk. Yet, when his moment of truth came, he enthusiastically supported budgets that have spent trillions more than could be collected.
Presently, he has not even put together a budget to fund the government, so congressional leadership is just winging it.
Apparently, he and his cohorts reason that when overspending trillions, why worry about a budget? It makes sense in a sick kind of way.
Barack Obama will be president for the next two, and likely, six years.
Clearly, Rep. Spratt has proven that he cannot be trusted as a counterweight. No matter how large the checks Obama writes, Spratt will sign them.
It’s time to take the nation’s checkbook away from Spratt and give it to someone who will balance it. We can elect that person by voting for Mick Mulvaney. It’s time for a change. Let’s have the courage to make it.
Lancaster resident Greg Gregory is a former state senator.