Liddick: Budget a Republican betrayal (column)
March 26, 2018
Shame. That's the only word that does justice to last Friday's utter collapse on the portion of federal spending Congress decided to fund with something that almost looked like a budget.
So this reeking pile of toxic waste, all 2200 pages of it, was assembled out of sight of anyone who might have had qualms at its size, scope or impact on the national debt. Leadership dropped it on the floor of the House Wednesday night and demanded a vote, tout de suite. Nancy "We'll have to pass it to find out what's in it" Pelosi couldn't have been prouder.
The omnibus spending bill granted some spending increases for national defense, true. It also spent $1.6 billion on "border security," but nothing for anything remotely resembling a real wall on our southern border. The price for that pittance was a torrent of money for other programs Democrats hold dear. Renewable energy funding went up 16%. Funding for "innovative" public transportation projects initiated under president Obama tripled. Money for a cluster of "community development" grants doubled. It was a red-letter day for federally funded scientific research, for "community learning centers" and other pet projects for powerful legislators. Chuck Schumer's "Gateway" tunnel project wasn't specifically funded, but New York Democrats anticipated that money would be found in excesses allocated for transportation and infrastructure projects. Even pecan growers were reimbursed for their losses in last year's foul weather.
Sanctuary cities faced not one dime of cuts. The National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities both got a boost. So did spending on low income housing and – naturally – gun control. It was a budget to make Barack Obama proud.
And it was a betrayal of every promise made by almost all people running for the House or the Senate with an "R" behind their names in 2016. In the words of House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, "This omnibus doesn't just forget the promises made to voters, it flatly rejects them."
He's right. From early on in Trump's presidency, it was quite clear that Republican leadership on Capitol Hill were more concerned with retaining their comfortable sinecures than with keeping their promises to their constituents. Which one might consider odd, since those selfsame promises were the reason many of them had comfortable sinecures to begin with. But such is the rot suffered by those who tarry overlong in the favor-trading, back-scratching, gladhanding, good-ol'-boy morass that is Washington, that they apparently thought nothing of their betrayals. After all, the thinking goes, what are the bumpkins going to do? Vote for Democrats?
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Probably not. But to think that switching teams is the only response to betrayal is to expose a remarkably narrow type of thinking. Washington's R-type solons should be reminded: not to choose is to choose, and if the response of a spurned and disillusioned constituency is to go have a beer on election day rather than to support a known and disdainful liar, well… Trey Gowdy and Bob Goodlatte are going to have a lot of unwilling company. And it couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch.
By the way, are conservatives no longer concerned with budget deficits? It seems not, from the hand-over-fist style of shoveling money out of Washington that's been going on since Republicans took control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Consider that, in the roughly two hundred years between George Washington leaving, and George W. Bush assuming, the presidency, the national debt grew to almost six trillion dollars. By the time he left office, debt was about $11.6 trillion. Barack Obama added nine in eight years. At the current rate we will bankrupt the country by 2040, give or take; according to CBO projections, debt service will outstrip every other budgetary item save Medicare and Social Security within ten years.
Once upon a time this mattered to conservatives, who promised incessantly to bring "out of control" spending to heel. They were rewarded with political power and now seem to relish spending money they do not have more than most.
This includes the president, who sat idly by while a Republican congress cooked up the current mess. Memo to the president: it's well to be publicly annoyed now, but the real time for annoyance was a month ago. And three weeks ago. And two. So that when you vetoed this nonsense, no one would have been surprised.
Yes, vetoed. That was the proper response. Reagan did it and did not suffer politically. In the end, he brought honor to himself and to his party, by adhering to his principles. We could all use some of that today. Or, we could seek another way forward. One that doesn't involve the Republican party and its professional prevaricators, smug self-serving sycophants and delusionists.
You know who you are.
Morgan Liddick appears weekly in the Summit Daily News.
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