Never, never, never, (did I say never?) never believe the
Democrats when they say that the country cannot "afford" a tax cut. That was
the argument 18 months ago, when President Bush proposed to cut taxes, and
with the passage of time we can see what a laugh it was to suggest that
giving taxpayers back a small slice of their money would denude the federal
What has happened since passage of the tax cut that was called
"enormous" and "gargantuan" is that federal spending has shot up -- not what
you'd expect after the Treasury had been raided. As the Heritage Foundation
calculates, the federal government is projected to increase federal spending
by almost $800 billion in the 2000-2003 period. And they were wailing about
decreasing taxes by $1.6 trillion over 10 years?
If this burst of new spending were a response to the war on
terrorism, it would be understandable. But it isn't. Only about 20 percent
of the new spending is defense-related. The rest is that animal we were not
supposed to see for another generation or more -- discretionary spending.
Recall that during the deficit mania that gripped the nation
during the election campaign of 1992, we were told that unless the deficit
could be reduced or eliminated, Congress would be spending so much on
entitlements and interest payments alone that discretionary spending would
simply dry up. Instead, the economy expanded so rapidly and thoroughly
during the 1990s that the deficit disappeared. And in the presence of a
surplus, members of Congress did what came naturally -- they splurged. The
current outlays mark the first time since 1967-70 when discretionary
spending rose faster than entitlement spending.
President Bush had offered a budget that would have increased
discretionary spending by 4 percent. But thanks to Sen. Tom Daschle and the
Democrats, reports Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth, spending actually
rose by 8 percent (excluding post-Sept. 11 increases in emergency spending).
Farm subsidies, which had actually been decreasing in the '90s,
have gone up by 106 percent. Medicare and Medicaid received huge increases
(of course), but so did other health programs like the National Institutes
of Health and the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Federal
payments for home loans got a 160 percent increase, and veterans programs
received a 16 percent increase. Unemployment compensation rose by 50
percent, and air transportation subsidies by 46 percent.
And the education juggernaut seems unstoppable. Despite the
total lack of evidence that increasing spending has any impact on academic
performance, our ladies and gentlemen in the Congress seem unable to say no
to any spending bill with the word "education" in it. (And you, gentle
voter, are to blame, too, if you reject a political candidate because "Smith
opposed more money for education.") Federal spending on education increased
from $128 billion in the 1996-1999 period to $170 billion in the 2000-2003
You can always page through the federal budget and find outrages
aplenty. (Did you know that Sam Donaldson gets a mohair subsidy?) The
trouble is that with the exception of a few professional budget-watchers,
most Americans are unaware of the final destination of their tax dollars.
Meanwhile, every beneficiary of federal largesse becomes an instant special
interest, who lobbies hard to maintain and increase his share of federal
And someone pays for it. If Congress had kept spending to its
1996-99 levels (adjusted for inflation), the average household would have
had $5,000 more to spend on necessities. More important, the money Congress
fritters away on spending is money that will not be available in case of
emergencies. Congress never seems to appropriate money for foreseeable
emergencies like hurricanes and other natural disasters. Neither has it show
n any awareness of the need to provide a pool of funds to cope with
unnatural emergencies like plagues, nuclear attacks or multiple bombings.
Instead, while our attention has been focused on Osama bin Laden and other
threats, our leaders have been shoveling the lard at favored
constituencies -- and bloating the leviathan in Washington.