All Republicans had to do when they won the election in 2016 was to hold the line on the budget bill they helped pass in 2011 with control of just one branch of government. Instead, first with control of all three branches and now with control of two of the three, they are about to undo the one spending success of the past decade, and with it, pre-empt any leverage they have to pressure Democrats on a single issue.
Why is it that not a single mile of new fencing has been constructed for Trump’s entire term? Why is it that we’ve spent billions taking 21,000 sick illegal aliens to the hospital, chewing up 250,000 man-hours of Border Patrol at hospitals and away from patrolling, yet not a penny more was spent on Border Patrol or the military holding the line against the cartel smuggling?
Look no further than the budget deals Trump signed over and over again, which collectively increased discretionary spending by 16 percent but not a dime for new border walls or deportations. He gave away his leverage for free. Now, with Trump agreeing to the deal Senate Republicans and his treasury secretary just forged, the total spending binge will rise to 20 percent above fiscal year 2017 levels and will still not include a dime for the border.
Here are the toplines of the deal:
- The debt ceiling will once again be suspended until July 31, 2021, with zero reforms or spending cuts. We will likely accrue over $2 trillion in additional debt over that time. And that is if Congress holds the line one any new “supplemental” or “emergency” spending over the next two years, which is next to impossible.
- By canceling the budget caps for the final two years of the Budget Control Act (FY 2020 and FY 2021), Trump will seal our fiscal ruin. All they had to do was simply pass a clean continuing resolution, and the automatic spending cuts would kick back in. Now that leverage is gone.
- The total cost of erasing the spending cuts plus adding new spending will be $321 billion over two years.
- What Republicans accomplished with one branch of government was erased when their power grew. After winning back control of the Senate, noted fiscal “conservative” Paul Ryan forged a deal to bust the caps by a total of $80 billion in FY 2016 and FY 2017. When Republicans won the White House, they agreed to another budget-busting bill of $296 billion for FY 2018 and FY 2019. Now they will add another $320 billion. In other words, by simply coasting with the status quo baseline, Republicans could have pocketed nearly $700 billion in less spending, yet they chose to use their power to spend everything Democrats wanted.
- Making this deal the new baseline for the next two years will lead to nearly $2 trillion in more spending over 10 years.
- Crafters of the deal are claiming that there are $77.4 billion in spending offsets, but the majority of it is scandalous. It’s from what’s called CHIMPs. No, it’s not chimpanzee-style math, but it as may as well be so. Changes In Mandatory Programs means that they just write a line in the bill saying, “In 10 years from now we will spend less on entitlement programs, and that will free up immediate increases for spending on discretionary programs.” They’ve been doing this for decades, and of course the cuts never happen. Imagine if you had a credit card limit and you got to say, “Hey, in 10 years I will find some funding to pay for the extra $100,000 I want to spend today, so here it is, fully offset.” Real monkey business.
- Consider that revenue is now $1.5 trillion higher than in 2009-2010 – during the Great Recession – yet the emerging deficits will rival those of the Obama stimulus era.
Republicans and even the Trump administration will once again hide behind military spending as excuse for this deal. But the entire point of the 2018 deal was to secure that spending. We already paid the price. Why does military spending have to be increased yet again, especially when we won’t even properly counter the Mexican cartels or Iran?
Even if Trump were inclined to agree with this madness, at least make the Senate work through the August recess on sovereignty and border security issues and build the case for a better budget deal in September. Why give away all your leverage at once on both the debt ceiling and spending caps?