- - Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Politicians just can’t give up their free-spending ways, and it’s not difficult to find a Republican who wants to expand the government just like a Democrat. An accurate indicator of whether a congressman is a cheapskate or a spendthrift is which congressional organization he joins.

Backers of the Tea Party Caucus, for example, are eager to cut taxes and reduce spending, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus wants to increase both, and by a lot. The National Taxpayers Union Foundation collected the budget proposals of several such organizations and calculated whether net spending would go up or down if each organizations got everything it wanted.

In a report called BillTally, the foundation determined “fiscally responsible” groups like the Republican Study Committee, the Tea Party Caucus and the Republican Main Street Partnership would, on the whole, reduce spending. The Democratic Blue Dog Coalition, on the other hand, would increase spending by $94 billion.

Still, for Democrats, that’s not so bad. The Congressional Progressive Caucus would boost federal outlays by $857 billion; the Congressional Black Caucus by $736 billion. The average House Democrat proposes $496 million in spending increases.

The average House Republican, on the other hand, proposes $82 million in net reductions. The conservative House members of the Republican Study Committee have attached their names to bills that would save taxpayers a net $99 billion. The Tea Party Caucus is the most parsimonious, advocating an impressive $128 billion reduction in federal spending.

Even the moderates of the Republican Main Street Partnership have put their priorities right. Members propose an average $11.5 billion increase in spending that is offset by $43 billion in cuts, for a net spending reduction of $32 billion. At that rate, the national debt would be retired in only 556 years. By then most of us alive now would be getting a little long in the tooth.

Something clearly must be done about the $17.6 trillion public debt, but most Democrats seem only interested in finding borrowed money to spend on almost everything. The itch to blow money is catching. Even the most responsible Republican groups would merely chip away at debt that has doubled as a percentage of the economy under President Obama. Even the Tea Party’s proposals would require 128 years to pay off the debt.

The Congressional Budget Office warns that the economy is on an “unsustainable” path. Once investors realize the government can’t pay back that much money, interest rates will rise, and the nation’s resources will be consumed by interest payments to creditors in China and similar bankers. “The result would be a smaller stock of capital and lower output and income than would otherwise be the case, all else being equal,” the nonpartisan accountants say.

The money is not running out; it has run out. The sooner the politicians of both parties and all affiliations acknowledge this, the sooner the nation can get started on doing something about it.