Congressional Malpractice

The hard truth is the government hasn’t increased its revenues to allow for increased discretionary spending

By Tammi Fisher

The recently approved budget deal is a reflection of congressional malpractice at its finest. While some components of the budget deal are positive, such as continuous funding of community health centers and veterans programs, others are true head-scratchers. Caps on discretionary spending have been inexplicably increased. We all live by caps on discretionary spending. In our personal budgets, after the necessities are paid, the money left over is discretionary, for movies and entertainment, outdoor recreation and such. The hard truth is the government hasn’t increased its revenues to allow for increased discretionary spending.

To increase discretionary spending when the government doesn’t have the revenues to cover the increase is similar to living on a credit card when your salary doesn’t cover your expenses.  This is the scenario we caution all kids to avoid as they enter adulthood — live within or below your means as surplus spending on credit cards creates a painful debt spiral. Of course, to make the increase palatable, Congress added the provision of a $125 billion cut to discretionary funding in 2020.  This “we are going to spend now and cut back in the future” is the height of poor budgeting and fiscal irresponsibility.

Add to this a bloated increase in defense spending. All of us want to ensure our troops are armed with whatever they need to keep us safe. Of that, there is no dispute. But this Congress allocated a whopping $696 billion to our nation’s defense — $93 billion more than requested by our very pro-defense president. Moreover, this increase comes less than a week after it was discovered that the Pentagon “lost $800 million” earmarked for construction projects. This is akin to giving your kid your wallet with $20 to go grocery shopping, having the wallet come back empty, asking for a receipt to show what was purchased, not receiving one, and then returning a wallet to your kid with $40 in it.

The bottom line of this budget deal remains stark-raving maroon red, amounting to an increase of about $300 billion in deficit spending over the next decade. Should Congress ever decide to address the deficit, I fear the only programs Congress will look to cut are Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. You and I pay in advance for our Medicare and Social Security benefits through our paychecks. Most of us are not interested in forfeiting our investments into Medicare and Social Security so that the politicians of today can win re-election by popular short-term budget deals based largely upon deficit spending. The swamp clearly isn’t draining; with this budget deal the only things circling the drain in Washington D.C. are the financial futures of this country and our children.   

Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.

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