February 24, 2013 by Nash Riggins
Since the Reagan administration, a vast majority of Republicans have campaigned using the mantra that ‘government doesn’t solve problems, it is the problem’. Accordingly, it only makes sense that, in the face of recession, Republicans and other fiscal conservatives are now insisting upon more federal austerity and a smaller government – yet for whatever reason, none of those individuals appear keen to admit that they’ve already gotten a substantial amount of both. Why?
Following the global recession, spending by federal, state and local governments has dropped steadily. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, federal spending – which peaked at 25.2% GDP in 2009 – is predicted to decline from 22.8% to 21.5% by 2017. Simultaneously, budget cuts within the federal government – unequivocally leading to what can only be defined as a ‘smaller government’ – are paying off. For the first time in 5 years, the federal budget deficit for the current fiscal year has dipped below $1 trillion, at $845 billion.
While this phenomenal level of spending is hardly worth bragging about, it is indeed somewhat baffling that right-wing politicians refuse to celebrate this gradual decline as a fiscally responsible way to reduce the size of an otherwise ‘obtrusive’ federal government. Chances are this is because they don’t like where government is getting smaller.
Last month, right-wing pundits were left seething when the Pentagon unveiled its 2013 budget plan – which boasted cuts of $487 billion in spending over the next ten years. How was the government able to reduce its budget by such a staggering figure? By following the Reagan mantra of downsizing government institutions.
Nearly 100,000 ground troops are to be let go, ships will be mothballed and air squadrons will be trimmed substantially. Just in case that won’t be enough, earlier this week Defense Secretary Leon Panetta notified 800,000 Pentagon employees that they should plan on experiencing unpaid leave in the coming months due to the government’s predicted inaction to solve the nation’s never-ending debt crisis.
How did Republicans respond? Senator John McCain – who is currently campaigning for a bill that would reduce the total federal workforce by one-third – raged that these federal layoffs foolishly “ignored the lessons of history”, while Representative Buck McKeon said the cuts clearly illustrated “Obama’s vision of an America that is weakened, not strengthened, by our men and women in uniform.”
Moreover, conservatives are also ensuring that the Obama administration’s recent fiscal ‘success’ story is being eclipsed by the sharp increase in spending on public benefits such as Social Security and Medicare. As the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation continues to drive up claims within such social entitlement programs, they are expected to add at least $700 billion in government debt over the next 4 years. Given the level of disgust expressed by Senator Marco Rubio last week with regards to the Obama administration’s apparent attempts to “bankrupt” programs like Medicare (even though Obamacare will actually double Medicare spending in the next 7 years), one can only assume that Republicans aren’t keen to scale back costs on this soaring government expenditure, either.
This leaves fiscal conservatives with a difficult internal dilemma – if not make cuts to the nation’s single most costly expenditures, why make any at all?
The government is shrinking, and so is its budget. Meanwhile, the US economy is slowly inching forward – albeit at a pathetic rate of just 1-2% every quarter. That being said, the American government is still facing rampant debt issues; therefore, further cuts must be subsequently made, and cherished programs sacrificed. Republicans and Democrats alike would do well to take into consideration that under these circumstances, the nation’s inconceivably high defence budget cannot be exempt from cuts – nor can a case be made for firing 2 in 3 federal employees whilst allowing funding for socialist legislature such as Medicare to grow exponentially.
Apparently, not only are some Republicans miserable when spending on a big federal government is high, but also when cuts are being made in order to reduce the size of said government. If nothing else, this hypocritical behavior is indicative of a complete lack of evolution with regards to the underdeveloped political mantra that lost Mitt Romney the Oval Office in November. What’s more, these foolish semantic debates that lawmakers are wasting time with in Washington are threatening to destroy what little recovery the American economy has made in recent years. Consequently, it’s time for a degree of bipartisan compromise where government spending is concerned – otherwise, an already frustrated Republican base should prepare for a hell of a lot more cuts in military spending, as well as a substantially longer waiting time for their social security cheques.