In December 1985 President Ronald Reagan signed the Gramm-Ruddman Act mandating a balanced federal budget by fiscal year 1991.
“The American people expect their elected officials to take action now to reduce the size of government and to set upon a reasonable and equitable course to eliminate federal budget deficits,” the conservative, Republican president said.
It took until 2001 and it happened under President Bill Clinton, but Gramm-Ruddman started a fiscal discipline process that eventually brought the budget in line.
Then came President George W. Bush and fiscal discipline went out the window through unfunded war spending, Medicare expansion, and TARP.
After Bush, the Tea Party pushed Republicans back on board the fiscal discipline wagon, e.g. in 2009, all Republican members of the House voted “no” on President Barrack Obama’s $800 billion Great Recession bailout bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. That was followed by years of Republicans lambasting Obama for huge deficits as his administration coped with the economic devastation of the Great Recession. The influx of Tea Party Republicans in Congress helped Republicans take control of the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014.
Now comes President Donald J. Trump and fiscal discipline is once again out the window. (Where is the Tea Party?)
Already facing trillion dollar annual deficits from Trump endorsed spending and revenue cuts, in March all but two Republican members of the House voted “aye” on Trump’s $2.3 trillion pandemic bailout bill, the CARES Act (three times bigger than Obama’s bailout bill). And Trump is preparing a request for another $2 trillion in unfunded spending.
Obama’s biggest annual deficit was $1.4 trillion. Trump’s may exceed $3 trillion as he, too, copes with economic devastation.
How do conservatives explain their flip flop from Obama to Trump?
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio gave it a try. “These are not normal times,” he told The Hill. “The circumstances in which we live in now have no precedent, at least for 70 years.”
“Our country is in a crisis,” said Tea Party champion Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. “Small businesses are closing their doors, millions of workers are losing their jobs, and entire industries are on the brink of collapse.”
The Great Recession was normal times and the country wasn’t in a crisis?
In addition to pushing conservative Republicans to spend and spend, Trump has been able to coax the Federal Reserve to create trillions in additional monetary relief. Heavily criticized by conservatives for greatly expanding its balance sheet and pumping money into the economy while Obama was president, the Fed has gone far beyond that at Trump’s urging.
“A person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs,” is how Dictionary.com defines the word hypocrite.
After spending more outrageously than liberal Democrats, it will be interesting to see how conservative Republicans dodge this label heading into November elections.
“The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them,” Proverbs 11:3.
» BILL CRAWFORD is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.
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