Want to ensure the growth of government? Forever?
The media does, and they have with Liberals devised the perfect way to do it. It is the “pay-as-you-go” Congressional budgeting rule — Pay-Go. It requires every move that Congress makes be “budget neutral”; every new spending initiative must be paid for – no more deficit spending.
How could anyone, Conservatives especially, not be enraptured with such a concept?
It certainly intrigued everyone in Congress in 1990, for it was then that Pay-Go became law as a part of that year’s Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. (It went away in 2002, only to be reinstated in January of this year.)
The problems with Pay-Go, however, became apparent immediately. It did nothing to reduce spending, and everything to prevent tax cuts. This went unreported by the press because it did not fit into their government growth is good narrative.
They instead used it as an opportunity to redefine what “fiscal responsibility” means in Washington.
Before Pay-Go, “fiscal responsibility” meant limiting federal expenditure to what the government could reasonably afford. And in these good old days there were “spending hawks” in Congress, elected officials who actually kept a keen eye focused on ensuring that government never grew too big for its fiscal britches. One, the late Harry Byrd, Sr. of Virginia, was often seen on the Senate floor in objection to some expenditure, asking, “How shall we pay for this?”
Under Pay-Go, spending hawks slowly went the way of the dodo, to be replaced by “deficit hawks”, a breed of bird the media prefers. These creatures are first and foremost concerned with the Congressional bottom line, and are far more willing to raise taxes than reduce spending to maintain it.
The press in unison praised these new “hawks”, and lauded their spendthrift ways as the new definition of “fiscal responsibility.”
Responsibility used to mean frugality; it now means tax hikes to pay for as much government as possible. Accordingly, you can be an Ear-Marxist and still be a “deficit hawk”, so long as you raise taxes enough to foot the bills.
And despite replete examples throughout our history that reducing taxes actually increases the revenue Washington collects, under Pay-Go Congress can not decrease taxes a dollar here without raising taxes a dollar there or cutting spending a dollar somewhere — “budget neutrality”, remember?
Once caught in this media-laid trap, is it any wonder that from a $14 trillion economy, fueled by over 300 million Americans, 536 elected officials in the District of Columbia are able to take and spend $2.7 trillion (over 19%)? And those with any thought of reining this in are upbraided for it by the press?
For this is merely the tip of the Washington ice berg the media wishes to see. Only in this press-induced haze can the federal government spend 1/5th of everything the nation creates and there be anyone calling it miserly.
Yet the media are doing exactly that. They are never ones to see any government program go without ever more, each and every year. Only they can call a program’s increase of a lesser percentage than that it had grown the previous year a “cut.”
And so Pay-Go goes. Were it rightly defined by the press, the mess in Washington would by now be a great deal less.