CALLIMS: The McCarthy majority and the Republican Party are not fiscal conservatives

With a Democrat inhabiting the White House, perhaps the most predictable thing about House Republicans’ return to power is this: They’ve rediscovered their pseudo-fiscal conservatism.

All week, members of the Republican majority have been ranting about how, thanks to the new House rules they put in place, they will restore integrity to the federal budget. Income will be balanced against spending and debt reduced, just as American families have to do so at the kitchen tables.

Do not take this promise to the bank. will bounce. And not because Republicans are up against the supposedly profligate Democrats who control the White House and Senate. As we begin what is sure to be two chaotic years of House Republican rule, a little financial history is in order, no need for green eyeshadow.

In short, the Republicans lost their title of “fiscal conservatives” so long ago that most Americans weren’t even born yet.

Opinion writer

Jackie Calms

Jackie Calmes brings a critical eye to the national political scene. She has decades of experience covering the White House and Congress.

A fiscal conservative advocates small government and low taxes but is open to higher taxes if needed to erase deficits. This kind of thinking defined the Republican Party for most of the twentieth century.

Beginning with Reagan, however, the party turned its credo on its head: Republicans had become so anti-tax that every time their party took power, they deliberately increased deficits in the higher cause of cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy. And each time, Republican claims that tax cuts will pay for themselves (economic growth!) have been refuted by the record—claims by Reagan, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump.

However, to listen to House Republicans recently, you would think that the Democrats and a few RINO’s were responsible for the total federal debt of $31 trillion. Heck, we’re still paying debts from the Bush administration, when Republicans also controlled Congress for six of its eight years. The Republicans’ red ink, which quickly swept away the budget surplus Bush inherited, is flowing largely from tax cuts, the unnecessary war in Iraq, and the large, unfunded domestic program, Medicare Part D, to cover prescription drugs for the elderly.

Democrats had for years wanted to add a drug benefit for older Americans, but they were held back by cost; In 1990, they agreed with First President Bush (a true fiscal conservative, for the most part) that new tax cuts or spending on entitlement programs like Medicare would be paid for with separate spending cuts or tax increases. Bush II and his Republican allies simply got rid of the base, so they can cut taxes and enact Part D, deficits be damned. (As Vice President Dick Cheney said, deficits don’t matter anymore.)

Democrats, in a fiscally conservative fashion, revived the “pay-as-you-go” rule when they regained power in Congress. President Obama’s Affordable Care Act was propelled mostly by spending cuts and new taxes on businesses that would have benefited from paying additional patients. When Trump was elected and the Republicans took control again, those taxes were repealed, adding some of Obama’s debt to the nation’s tab and making Republican claims of fiscal rectitude hollow again.

That move was only responsible for a fraction of the debt we’ve now incurred since the Trump era. Lest the former president’s defenders rush to say he was traumatized by a costly pandemic, know this: Before COVID-19 hit, Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress accumulated nearly $5 trillion in debt, projected over a decade, from both higher . spending and tax cuts. This is according to the Fiscally Conservative Committee for a (Really) Responsible Federal Budget.

Trump has left nearly $8 trillion in total debt after four years, more than Bush or Obama left in each man’s eight years as president, the conservative Manhattan Institute found.

Did the so-called Republicans complain about the deficit hawks now running the House? of course not. About that, like any other outrage in the Trump years, they were silent. and complicit.

But they’ve found their voices now that Joe Biden is president, though for now their blistering rhetoric still stands: Tax cuts don’t have to be paid for under new Republican rules, which only require some new spending.

Three times during Trump’s term, Republicans have quietly gone to raise the federal debt limit, so that the government can continue to borrow to cover costs they, along with previous presidents and Congress, had paid on the state credit card. No drama, no strings attached. However, even before House Republicans won power in the midterm elections, they were promising to hold the debt limit hostage unless Biden and the Democrats agree to massive spending cuts.

“We’re not going to keep raising your credit card limit, right?” Minority Leader then and now Speaker of Parliament Kevin McCarthy said in October.

“for you” Credit card, says the man who’s been in Congress for 16 years, in the House Republican leadership for 14, and over time has voted for countless unfunded tax cuts and spent more than he’d admit.

Raising the debt limit does not add a cent to the deficit and debt; It just ensures that the government can pay the current bills. But refusing to raise it could be disastrous for the nation and the global economy that depends on the United States for the stability of the dollar. When House Republicans got serious about preventing a debt ceiling increase in 2011, under Obama, the threat shook the markets.

Playing this game again would be the most fiscally irresponsible and least fiscally conservative thing Republicans could do. But as history warns us, don’t overdo them. They are financial fakers.


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