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Opinion | A reckless bipartisan budget
Early on Friday morning, Feb. 9, Congress passed a budget for the next two years, to be sent to President Trump’s desk for his signature. It ended a government shutdown you might not have known about. This is because it lasted only a few hours in the dead of night.
Many Democrats opposed the bill because it did not provide any protections for Dreamers, people brought into the country illegally as young children. They found an unlikely ally in Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). Senator Paul led a solo filibuster of the new budget, not because of the issue of Dreamers, but because it raised military and non-military spending by more than $300 billion, eliminated spending caps, and raised the debt ceiling.
Independent analysis suggests that this budget could result in an annual deficit of over 1 trillion dollars. This is especially concerning when you consider that the annual interest payments for our existing debt are expected to double over the next decade. This is in addition to the fact that the debt itself will amount to over $30 trillion by that time, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Paul had asked Senate GOP leaders to put forward an amendment to keep the spending caps in place.
Predictably, he was denied.
“How come you were against President Obama’s deficits, and then how come you’re for Republican deficits?” Paul asked during his floor speech. “Isn’t that the very definition of intellectual dishonesty?”
It is. If you only care about something when the other party does it, this makes you a partisan hack. Many people accused Senator Paul of grandstanding, and they may be correct, but that doesn’t make him wrong.
You have to ask, what is worse; the party that openly doesn’t care about the deficits, or the party that pretends to, but actually doesn’t? That the Republicans, who spent the Obama years rightly lambasting massive deficits, are rank hypocrites when they come to power, or that the Democrats openly don’t care?
Because that is the situation our country is in right now. Neither of the major political parties actually care about blowing out the federal debt, that it should be noted, we will eventually have to pay back. Both parties agreeing to spend more on their pet issues (the military with Republicans, social programs for Democrats) might be bipartisan, but it certainly doesn’t leave the country in a better place.
To their credit, the House Freedom Caucus, the remnants of what used to be the Tea Party, stuck to their guns against their own leadership and formally opposed the bill along with Senator Paul. They were joined, uncharacteristically, by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other House Democrats who wanted to see a DACA fix and feared a possible revolt from the left. Neither mattered in the end though; the budget passed both the House and Senate, and was signed by President Trump later that day.
It is both easy and understandable to get disheartened at this looming problem that will, sooner or later, fall on our shoulders. But perhaps we should hesitate before absolving ourselves of all blame.
The stereotype that politicians are liars and care more about their power than their constituents is a time tested rule, but there is a reason for it. When we expect so much from them, only liars could possibly claim to give us what we want. That the people who run our country are bankrupt, both morally and fiscally, says as much about us as it does about them.