On Sunday, Vice President Pence left an Indianapolis Colts game early because some of the players decided to kneel for the national anthem. This sparked outrage for some, who complained about the cost to taxpayers of the brief trip. Unfortunately, this tiny price tag is just a drop in the bucket and there is a much more expensive problem at hand. It’s great that people are starting to care about spending, but it’s even more important that Congress does something about it now, especially when it’s what many members campaigned on, and the opportunity is ripe.
Members of Congress have done little to curb spending, even though fiscal conservatives thought a unified Republican government would change the status quo. The House recently passed a budget that makes cuts and would eventually balance, however the Senate budget takes a much different approach. The budget proposed by the Senate Budget Committee would add $1.5 trillion to the deficit, while asking for $1 billion in spending cuts—a measly $1 billion in a multi-trillion dollar budget. Defenders of the Senate budget proclaim that if tax reform is passed, it will spur economic growth that will increase revenues and reduce the deficit in the long-term.
Though the House budget is certainly superior to the Senate’s version, the $203 billion in required savings are projected towards the end of the ten-year window. For this fiscal year, the House version actually increases spending by $67 billion—a $72 billion bump for military and $5 billion reduction for non-defense programs.
Why are the savings not immediate? Because why solve the problem now when it can be next Congress’ job?
The savings numbers are misleading. Since a budget is passed every year, cutting $203 billion relies on the next group of lawmakers to make the cuts, not those currently in charge. For a group of people who constantly call into question the spending habits of government, they don’t do a whole lot to actually solve the problem themselves. There were 18 Republicans who voted against the House budget—along with 188 Democrats—so not everybody is as enthusiastic on the idea of continuing to spend and spend.
The repercussions of not addressing spending are grave. It may not be an immediate problem, and there is little consensus about when a financial catastrophe may hit, but it is clear that this is not sustainable. Continuing to borrow money will continue to dig us in a deeper hole and with the Federal Reserve indicating that they plan to raise rates again in the next few months, the cost of borrowing is only going to go up. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that the share of the budget going to paying interest on the debt will more than triple by 2046, taking resources away from other programs or forcing increases in revenue elsewhere.
On top of the budget fight, the White House has requested an additional $29 billion in disaster relief, on top of the $15 billion approved in September. Thankfully, some Republicans are fighting this. Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (R-NC) stated that, “we’re going to come out strong for those to be offset.” Walker points to different programs where money can be reshuffled to pay for the relief, advocating against adding to the debt and deficit.
It’s clear that there are champions on the Hill that see the need to fight spending—the problem is that they are in the minority. Everyone in Washington is talking about tax reform, but they often fail to talk about the growth of spending that seems to never end. If politicians want to cut taxes, fine, but do so in a manner that is fiscally responsible and doesn’t put the nation in a worse position.
Eventually, we are going to have to do something about out debt. It may not seem like a pressing issue now, but constantly kicking the can down the road is completely irresponsible. To members of Congress, if you truly care about spending issues, do something about it now.
Jake Grant is the Outreach Director for the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He earned his BA in Political Science from San Diego State University in 2016.