A handful of congressmen contemplate the fiscal abyss

  • 8 May 2017
  • NormanL

Members of the House Freedom Caucus gathered recently to discuss federal spending, and the news was not good. As we have said in these pages for longer than we care to remember, government has a spending problem. The illness afflicts both parties. And at bottom, the problem is us -- voters who demand government do more (far more than ever imagined by the constitution's framers), for more people, more often. And the result: the bloat creeps into every corner of government...even those where government is constitutionally mandated to act. According to Rep. Mark Meadows:

“The major driver is obviously entitlement reform. I met with Director Mulvaney this morning to talk about what our budget may be and what their budget may be. When you look at defense, I think there’s a couple of areas that I have communicated very clearly with some of our defense hawks – we have a bloated Pentagon and it is time that we addressed that. And that might be lightning on a chalkboard to some in here, but we need to really look at the Pentagon and how that has disproportionately grown with regards to our conventional military forces,” Meadows said during the discussion.

“The other is that when you have $125 billion you can’t account for and you can’t do an audit, you know, eventually that adds up to real money. And so we really have to address both of those things. I think, are we willing to do that? The answer is yes. And even among many of us who believe in a strong national defense – we also have to have an accountable military to the American people,” he added.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) agreed that Congress should find future savings in the Pentagon budget.

“We’re all for a strong defense, as strong as possible, but we think that’s something that has to be examined,” he said.

The Pentagon is a financial mess. It is also a honeypot for politicians looking for a quick hit of jobs and federal spending in their districts, regardless of whether the programs they adopt make sense.

And we have this, from Rep. David Brat:

“On defense, on healthcare, on pre-existing questions, it’s ‘why don’t you spent more?’ Then from the press the next question is ‘why did you spend me? Aren’t you fiscally responsible?’”

Brat continued, “They [Democrats] want a constant lit up Christmas tree, no fiscal responsibility, and so the press has to do a better job. We get the tough side on both questions and they get a free ride.”

Brat said third-graders know the nation’s $20 trillion debt and approximately $100 trillion in “unfunded liabilities” are not sustainable.

“Should we do more or less in Washington, D.C. if we are $100 trillion short? A third grader will tell you less – they are very smart, but up in D.C. it’s hard getting to that answer. It’s quite amazing,” he said. 

"Not sustainable" is being charitable. The bills Congress puts on the national credit card today is not funded with "free money." All that debt carries interest payments, which are a growing part of the federal budget that will get bigger once interest rates return to historical norms.

Until someone in Congress wises up and admits there's a problem -- and we, the voters, admit we have stoked the spending and debt spree by demanding Congress "do something" about every problem under the sun -- the problem will eventually become a crisis. And by then, it will be too late to change our ways.