Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff and Congressional Dysfunction

From David Boaz, at Cato:
Annual federal spending rose by a trillion dollars when Republicans controlled the government from 2001 to 2007. It has risen another trillion during the Bush-Obama response to the financial crisis. So spending every year is now twice what it was when Bill Clinton left office, and the national debt is three times as high. Republicans and Democrats alike should be able to find wasteful, extravagant, and unnecessary programs to cut back or eliminate. And yet many voters, especially Tea Partiers, know that both parties have been responsible. Most Republicans, including today’s House leaders, voted for the No Child Left Behind Act, the Iraq war, the prescription drug entitlement, and the TARP bailout during the Bush years. That’s why fiscal conservatives should look very skeptically at the “fiscal cliff” and “grand bargain” proposals, most of which promise to cut spending some day—not this year, not next year, but swear to God some time in the next 10 years. As the White Queen said to Alice, ”Jam to-morrow and jam yesterday—but never jam to-day.” Cuts tomorrow and cuts in the out-years—but never cuts today.

If the “dysfunctional” fight that has sent us to the edge of the fiscal cliff finally results in some constraint on out-of-control spending, then it will have been well worth all the hand-wringing headlines. But that doesn’t seem likely. The problem is not a temporary mess on Capitol Hill and not a mythical default; it’s spending, deficits, and debt.
The entire political class is the problem, but again, the first order of business is getting the Democrats out of power.