Democrats defeated President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress with a spending-bill deal suiting their political druthers, or so it is said. The truth is that all sides more or less conspired to defeat the American people, to set us up for a mighty fall through economic ruination. This is not trivial politics at work. It is tragically irresponsible negligence threatening one and all.
The overriding budgetary need was and is to do something about a $20 trillion debt on its way to disaster, and there is just one solution. Take on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Despite elitist pretense, media mindlessness and bureaucratic gobbledygook, the costs are mounting unsustainably and adjustment is fiscally mandatory. We’re talking about 60 percent of the budget, deficits in the tens of billions and collapse just a decade away.
Minus change, we’ll have debt payments and entitlements gobbling up every nickel of federal revenue, leaving nothing for anything else.
That’s the estimate of accomplished, bipartisan analysts, but meanwhile any attempt at sensible rectification quickly encounters politically advantageous, utterly deceptive outrage about cheating beneficiaries. The real cheating is to do nothing. Trump is as bad on this front as spend-us-to-death Democrats and worsened it all by seeking an increased expenditure as cringeworthy as they come.
He wanted billions for the building of his adored wall on the Mexican border. There are other much, much cheaper ways of equally stymying the flow of illegal immigrants and this extravagance seemed particularly obnoxious when you look at one cut he vainly sought. It was in research funding at the National Institutes for Health at a time when important discoveries seem on the horizon.
But his total request for domestic cuts amounted to $18 billion, most made absolute sense, and Democrats instead boosted domestic spending by $5 billion with Republicans nodding their heads.
After all, there just might be electoral reimbursement if you throw $100 million at a pointless high-speed rail project in California. Or perhaps there is ideological gratification in providing grants to the arts that once flourished magnificently without them. It’s true that politics can then influence artistic directions, that money will not be as available for vital projects that are in fact the government’s business and that private donations may then be depressed. Still, isn’t a federal role always needed?
No. The genius of America, at least once upon a time, was people boosting their communities on their own, through churches, civic associations, businesses, charitable groups and more. This is a statist era, however, and so it is beyond the imagining of some that the federal government would not intervene everywhere and that state and local governments are too often left out of the picture. What we have in this trillion-dollar deal is an underlying sense that central planning can easily outsmart the free choices of millions of citizens.
One disproof of that thesis is what happened with Obamacare that upended the business model of health insurance companies, saying they should charge the most where there is the least risk and the least where there is the most risk. It is no wonder they could not then make ends meet in their Obamacare transactions and therefore depend on government subsidies that were renewed and enhanced in the budget deal.
What we have ended up with in this conglomeration is 1,600 pages of too many ill-considered, unjustified, even dangerous decisions documenting the self-serving ineptness of those governing us. The Democrats were in the driver’s seat because their power of filibuster could then lead to a government shutdown with the Republicans likely being blamed. The Republicans too readily went along with too much, may even have liked where they were going in some instances, and Trump was scarcely without fault, least of all when it came to doing something about entitlements.
We had compromises enough to avoid that government shutdown, which really should be avoided, but they simultaneously illustrated a shutdown of fundamental duties.
Jay Ambrose is an OpEd columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.