What don’t Republicans understand about "It's the spending, stupid"?
Sometimes posturing proves bad for posture. Standing for eight hours in four-inch heels strikes as just one of those times.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi grandstanded on immigration in the well of the House of Representatives on Wednesday. The media hailed the lengthy harangue as unprecedented. But surely this comes as not the first time a preachy liberal promised to take just one minute of your time only to conclude the lecture eight hours later.
The 77-year-old ignoring her mother’s advice to wear sensible shoes nonsensically wishes to block a budgetary bill because it neither includes, nor links to any forthcoming vote on, legislation granting citizenship to millions of people who came here illegally. Whether one thinks it a good or bad idea to convey citizenship upon people brought to this country illegally as children seems beside the point. Pelosi engaged in non sequitur politics, which hijacks an important issue with demands stemming from an unrelated concern. By such logic, legislators might now attempt to block any bill because they object to some other law.
One might understand better if budget hawks carried on for eight hours inveighing against the deal, which meshes seamlessly with Pelosi’s vision of a larger federal government.
The agreement, when hammered out between House and Senate, figures to add $400 billion or so in federal spending over the next two years with nothing in revenue or cuts to offset the increase.
“This spending bill is a debt junkie’s dream,” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) opined. “I’m not only a ‘No,’ I’m a ‘Hell no.’”
“The amount of military spending, defense spending, is far above the president’s request. Far above it,” Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) explained. “I’m all for supporting our military and I want to make sure they’re funded properly. It’s very difficult to have that big of increase in one year and then be able to use it wisely.”
“The powers that be say, ‘Either vote to continue the deficit spending or shut the government down,’” Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) pointed out. “While I don’t want to shut down the federal government, I also don’t want to keep open a government that borrows a million dollars every minute.”
While a booming economy might fuel optimism regarding revenues, several signs caution against assuming best-case scenarios. The stock market appears in the midst of a correction. Interest rates look on their way up. Interest rates on U.S. Treasury ten-year notes have moved up from the two-percent to the three-percent range. A one-percent increase in the interest rate on the $20 trillion debt means an increase in expense by $200 billion. Beyond these mounting costs, President Donald Trump advocates a host of new spending programs, foremost among them a massive infrastructure plan that calls for $200 billion in federal spending.
Even before the stock market tanked, the president called for new programs in the State of the Union, and Congress lifted spending caps, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated deficits to exceed $1 trillion in 2019 and 2020. That gloomy forecast now appears rosy.
In a short-sighted sense, the deal helps the political prospects of Republicans. The next debt limit comes, significantly, after November’s midterm elections, assuming the legislation suspends March’s upcoming debt-limit deadline. But the long-term consequences of Paul Ryan scheduling a House vote without, possibly, a majority of the majority’s support strikes as imprudent politics. The voters who sent Republicans to Congress did not elect them to expand government and increase deficits. The enthusiasm to send them back to Washington dissipates as their enthusiasm for the issues and principles that matter to their electorate dissipates.
Nancy Pelosi stood for the wrong reasons and in the wrong shoes. But least she knows how to take a stand — and her voters know that she knows how to take a stand, too.
Hunt Lawrence is a New York-based investor. Daniel Flynn is the author of five books.