- The Washington Times - Monday, December 21, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The fat-filled $1.1 trillion appropriations bill Democrats sent President Obama last week is the latest action in a spending spree that is fast becoming the pivotal political issue of the midterm elections.

The Democrats’ yearlong spending orgy, record $1.4 trillion budget deficits and a $12 trillion national debt have been overshadowed by the economy and jobs, health care reform and other issues. But they are part and parcel of a spending binge that has spawned a taxpayer rebellion and driven Mr. Obama’s job approval polls down into the 40s.

The catchall funding bill to enrich dozens of departments and agencies for fiscal 2010 represents a budget-busting 12 percent increase in spending - an unprecedented expansion of government in a time of belt-tightening by ordinary Americans and private businesses.

The irresponsible level of spending increases was scandalous enough, pushing budget growth far beyond the modest rate of inflation, sucking investment and savings out of a financially anemic economy and piling up higher debts on future generations of Americans.

The omnibus bill, passed largely on a party-line vote, was also loaded with thousands of earmarks inserted into the bill by lawmakers for favored and politically connected special interests back home - spending that was not reviewed in any hearings or requested by anyone in the government.

The pork-stuffed earmarks went for things like the Laredo Little Theatre in Texas, a beautification project in Scranton, Pa., and little-used airfields in Mississippi.

Other examples of waste and wantonness in this bill include a $2.6 million earmark to develop techniques to perform surgical operations in space and $30,000 for something called the “Woodstock film festival youth initiative.”

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Senate’s scourge of earmarks, called the unrequested spending items “the greatest act of generational theft that’s been committed in the history of this country.”

“We’re spending money like a drunken sailor, and the bar is still open,” Mr. McCain told his colleagues last week as the Senate was checking off its Christmas list - without a thought to the recession - and charging the bills to America’s beleaguered taxpayers.

When Mr. Obama was running for president last year, he promised he was going to go over each and every government expenditure with a fine-tooth comb to weed out wasteful spending. In fact, he has presided over the biggest one-year spending binge in the history of our country, and he has just been warming up for bigger spending sprees to come.

All this spending and debt means higher taxes to come, and if you think you and your family already are taxed enough, wait until you see what this administration has in store for you in the coming years. A word search of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s health care bill alone finds the term “tax” is used at least 183 times in the bill’s 2,074 pages, “taxable” is used 164 times, and “excise tax” appears eight times.

Meanwhile, the debts from Mr. Obama’s “change we can believe in” spending plans are piling up faster than ever, threatening to precipitate a debt-driven crisis that jeopardizes this country’s future economic foundations, according to an ominous report prepared by the Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

The bipartisan commission said last week that the U.S. debt load shot up from 41 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) to 53 percent in just the past year alone, warning that it’s going to get a lot worse unless steps are taking to rein in spending.

How much worse? Its report, “Red Ink Rising: A Call to Action to Stem the Mounting Federal Debt,” projects the government debt level will hit 85 percent of gross domestic product by 2018, 100 percent by 2022 and 200 percent in 2038.

“However, before the debt reached such high levels, the United States would almost certainly experience a debt-driven crisis - something previously viewed as almost unfathomable in the world’s largest economy,” the commission said.

All this will have a huge political impact on an administration whose entire agenda is built around major increases in federal spending and a much larger, more intrusive government than we have now.

Those rumblings that we heard this summer at the health care town-hall gatherings, fueled by the tea-party protesters and their political allies, are growing larger and louder, and they blame Mr. Obama and the Democrats. The Gallup Poll found last month that just 31 percent approved of his job on spending, and Democratic advisers are warning that Mr. Obama and his party are going to get slammed by the voters next year if they don’t get control of their spending addiction.

The White House and congressional Democrats “will get killed in the next election,” former Clinton administration budget director Alice Rivlin said last week at a round-table discussion of the commission’s findings at the National Press Club.

Yet Mr. Obama and his party still don’t get it. In a speech at the Brookings Institution here in which he outlined another stimulus bill, he said the country must continue to “spend our way out of this recession.” Hold on to your wallets.

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent of The Washington Times.

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