This article was originally published by Whitson G. Waldo, III at The Mises Institute.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The left vs. right paradigm lie is on full display during this debt ceiling debacle. It isn’t left vs. right. It’s the ruling class vs. the slaves.
The United States House of Representatives’ passage of the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023 is a big Republican failure in addressing the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling would be raised above the current limit of $31 trillion by $1.5 trillion or through March 2024, whichever comes first. Notably, “official cost estimates have not yet been released,” so the projected paltry $480 billion annual spending reductions likely will be much less.
This is because this bill “does not list any specific cuts.” Fortunately, it is expected that Senate Democrats will vote down this execrable bill.
Campaigning Republicans are invariably aghast at deficits in the billions. Elected Republicans, however, are comfortable with deficits in the trillions based on last year’s appropriations passed by the most progressive Congress and administration in this country’s history.
The House bill is a “me too, but a little less” action to grow ever bigger government more slowly. Lone Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) stood against the farce, insisting on “true debt reduction, not rate of growth.” Declining to exercise leverage over the process, the Freedom Caucus is losing legitimacy and should rename itself the Freedom Lost Caucus.
The list is short and thin for merits of the House bill. Disqualified as a merit is the general, unspecified limit to grow spending—excluding the military—at 1 percent annually. Otherwise, the student loan forgiveness program and income-driven repayment plan would be blocked. The Internal Revenue Service appropriation of $80 billion for additional employees would be rescinded. Recipient work requirements would be added for food stamps and Medicaid. There would be a repeal of unreliable (i.e., solar and wind) energy and electric vehicle tax credits. Unused covid-19 funds would be clawed back.
Because the House initiates appropriations, no laws need to be passed if any government program, commission, office, agency, bureau, department, or administration is defunded completely. The House has the authority to act unilaterally this way. Spending reductions that stop short of elimination, the path to conservative defeat, require agreement between the House, the Senate, and the White House. It won’t get easier to pass a balanced budget later, and the window for this is closing quickly. We can look into the dismal future by looking at the similar past actions of Argentina, Venezuela, and the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain) with their out-of-control spending and monetary policies.
Consider the categories of individuals, groups, and issues supposedly forming the base for the perpetual political success of a realigned Republican Party. Opportunities for conservatives include parents and parental rights, the working class composed of the poor and middle class who could benefit from capitalism and its attendant prosperity, senior citizens, and citizens desiring safety and security.
Instead, parents aren’t supported. The Department of Education isn’t eliminated, which would be another step toward universal school choice. LGBTQ recruitment into sexual deviancy continues apace, with increased funding for Planned Parenthood and the medico pharmaceutical industrial complex anxious for lifetime profits from transgender transitions.
Prosperity isn’t supported for poor and middle-class workers. A balanced budget is an imperative unrecognized by elected Republicans. The Environmental Protection Agency, dedicated to antihumanism and environmental radicalism, isn’t defunded. The Department of Energy, dedicated to the Green New Deal, is still funded. Neither the Department of Commerce, dedicated to globalism nor the Department of Health and Human Services, dedicated to the evisceration of the intact nuclear family, is defunded as well. Crony capitalist initiatives such as the funding for the Creating Helpful Incentives to Product Semiconductors (CHIPS) Act and tax credits for ethanol production should stop.
Congressional deficit spending requires the monetization of the debt by the Federal Reserve, which causes monetary inflation. Lower real wages and fewer opportunities in a more stagnant economy cause lower standards of living.
Senior citizens are under a cloud even though “cuts” would not apply to benefits programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Only a balanced budget supports senior citizens’ interests. Balancing the budget is a tougher proposition every year. The reason is that the accumulated profligate deficit spending by the uni party, adding up to our national debt, requires interest payments. The fraction of the budget going to interest payments—currently at about 7 percent of all federal outlays—keeps climbing, increasing pressure for program cuts. If elected Republicans make hard choices now, then Social Security and Medicare won’t have to be targeted later.
Liberty isn’t advanced. Safety and security aren’t supported. At the global level, the incompetent and tyrannical World Health Organization, the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, and the socialist and crony capitalist International Monetary Fund are fully funded. Forever wars supported by the military-industrial complex, the corrupt and tyrannical Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are fully funded. At the national level, the corrupt and unreformable Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and US Customs and Border Protection agencies are fully funded. The environmental, social, and governance; critical race theory; and diversity, equity, and inclusion frameworks are fully supported as well. The woke military is exempt from cuts.
Significantly, Congress isn’t insisting on adherence to the Constitution with respect to regulations and executive orders. The Constitution authorizes only Congress to pass laws, and this authority may not be delegated. All regulations and executive orders must be submitted to Congress as proposals for additional legislation. Elected Republicans are sanguine that the regulatory state and imperial White House make their own laws thereby directly threatening liberty and prosperity.
Neither Donald Trump nor Ron DeSantis has heartburn. Trump’s first-term legacy was a reduction in the flow of illegal immigrants, regulatory state rollback, and the recission of Barack Obama’s executive orders. However, President Trump signed every massive omnibus spending bill, each with higher deficit spending, sent to his desk. As governor, DeSantis must balance the state budget, but the virtues of doing this at the national level elude him to the extent he can’t articulate why a balanced budget is necessary for liberty and prosperity.
What recourse do voters have? Primaries are rigged by the two political parties to return incumbents to office. Nevertheless, it is within primaries that authentic conservatives can be elected. Conservatives should learn the lesson of former progressive House Speaker John Boehner, who encouraged large numbers of candidates to oppose him in his primary. There needs to be only a single authentic conservative running against the incumbents. All primaries should require a majority winner or have a runoff.
With a divided government, the legislation likely to pass would be a provision of a line-item veto by the president. Such a law would eviscerate the “take it or leave it” attitude implicit in omnibus spending bills or the huge bundled “single appropriations” bills envisioned by progressives wearing red jerseys. Congress would pass the buck to the White House to be fiscally responsible.
The House bill raising the debt ceiling is good news for the wealthy. In the face of profligate congressional spending, the Fed must eventually relent and go back to monetary easing, which will reinflate the asset bubbles in the stock and residential housing markets. The wealthy, having a higher percentage of disposable income with which to invest, will benefit disproportionately. There will be a further increase in wealth inequality between the poor and middle class versus the wealthy.
Elected Republicans are dedicated to vigorous tongue lashings, finger-wagging, and foot stomping. Unfortunately, only campaigning Republicans recognize the virtues of a much smaller government. Voters should recognize the difference between campaigning and elected Republicans and know that elected Republicans are dedicated to the decline of the country. The decision to vote for an incumbent in the general election just depends on how badly you want to see the progressive wear your team’s jersey color.