- The Washington Times - Monday, July 27, 2009

The House approved so-called “pay-as-you go” legislation last week that Democratic leaders and President Obama point to as an integral part of their dedication to fiscal discipline. While the pay-go bill requires that all new spending increases be offset by spending cuts or tax increases, the reality is that it forces no real budget discipline.

The pay-go measure is riddled with loopholes and is easily ignored by congressional appropriators. When announcing his version of the bill last month, Mr. Obama said the “very simple” proposal means “Congress can only spend a dollar if it saves a dollar elsewhere.” But the Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill would increase the deficit by $3 trillion over 10 years because it allows many exemptions.

Current House rules include pay-go restrictions, but Democratic leaders regularly waive the limits and increase deficit spending anyway. This practice was partly the result of opposition from George W. Bush’s administration to offsetting the funding for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the fact such limits are unpopular with big spenders in the Senate.

Pay-go proponents argue that making the rules statutory again would toughen spending discipline on Capitol Hill. But the previous statutory pay-go rules — which were instituted when Bill Clinton was president and expired early in the last administration — did not curb spending by Democratic or Republican lawmakers.

It should be obvious to everyone that any pretense of favoring small government is over. Democrats have already pushed through $787 billion in deficit spending in the so-called stimulus package. They are now pursuing health care legislation that CBO has warned will increase spending dramatically while the federal deficit already is expected to surpass $1.8 trillion this year alone.

Pay-go laws are nothing more than camouflage providing political cover for more spending by allowing politicians to claim new spending is offset when it isn’t. If Democrats were serious about fiscal reform and cutting the deficit, they would work to curtail entitlement costs and actually cut some spending. They are doing the opposite.

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