T Nation

Runaway Government Spending

I wanted to post John McCain’s comments at the recent conference on Fiscal Policy. They will make your head spin.

Even though this is a bipartisan problem, we are currently under a one-party government, with Republicans controlling the White House, Senate and House of Representatives. In my opinion the GOP has shown piss-poor stewardship over the federal budget. And indeed McCain does single out the GOP as being the prime suspects in runaway spending, in combination with huge tax cuts for special interests and the wealthy, during a time of war. The GOP is now the party of fiscal irresponsibility.

That blunt honesty is probably why House Majority Whip Dennis Hastert (Republican) pretended he didn’t know who John McCain was during a recent interview (“McCain who???”)

McCain’s comments follow this post, I don’t want to clog up the forum with a huge post that Republican T-Men can’t bear to actually read (LOL)

“HOW TO PUT AMERICA ON THE ROAD TO FISCAL SANITY WHILE WE STILL CAN”
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Remarks by Senator John McCain for the Progressive Policy Institute Forum:

Thank you Bill, and I would like to thank everyone at PPI for hosting this forum. It is vitally important that we engage in a serious dialogue about our fiscal future. We need to do exactly what is being done here today- having a thorough, no-holds-barred discussion between a large group of policy experts from the right and the left. It doesn’t happen often enough in this town. But once we stop talking, we need to start acting, and I hope by the end of this forum you will agree to join in helping lead the charge to action.

In the interest of straight talk, let me be blunt. I expect that by the time I leave this room today, I will have offended each and everyone of you in some way. I’m going to say things that aren’t popular in Washington, but that people in this room need to hear. You may get angry at me, and I hope you get angry at yourselves as well. It’s true that we need comprehensive reform of the budget process. Later this morning, Sen. Lieberman will outline a very worthy proposal. Such reforms are long overdue. We can talk about every budget reform measure imaginable, but the bottom line is that, until both Democrats and Republicans control their appetite for spending, we’re going to continue to spiral out of control.

As everyone in this room knows, our fiscal future can only be described as bleak. We have a projected deficit of over $521 billion and we continue to spend, and spend, and spend. Lately more and more comment about how Republicans and Democrats can’t find any common ground and I myself have lamented on how nasty and partisan Washington has become. Well, I stand corrected, because there is one thing which unites Republicans and Democrats: Fiscal irresponsibility has become the great unifier of late, and for that we should all be ashamed.

I am a proud Republican. I’m a Barry Goldwater Republican. I revere Ronald Reagan and his party of limited government. Sadly, that party is no longer. The current version of the Republican party is engaged in an outrageous spending binge and they’re being steadied and encouraged by the Democrats. It used to be understood that no one ever voted for a Democrat to be a champion of fiscal responsibility. But at this point, is there a party to take up that worthy cause?

From pork barrel spending to expanding entitlements to tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens, both parties have proven who they represent and who they are working for and it’s not the American taxpayer. Republicans and Democrats alike represent no one but the special interests. Whether it be catfish farmers in the south or blueberry farmers in the north or big Pharmaceutical companies with high-paid lobbyists here in Washington- big-monied special interests have a stranglehold on this town.

My friends, we are at war. Throughout our history, wartime has been a time of sacrifice. At the beginning of the war I said it would be long and difficult, and would require a great deal of sacrifice on everyone’s part. But about the only sacrifice taking place is that by the brave men and women fighting to defend and protect the liberties we hold so dear, and that of their families.

It is time for others to step up and start sacrificing. What have we sacrificed? Just in the last year we have approved legislation containing billions and billions of dollars in unrequested and unauthorized pork barrel projects, huge tax breaks for the wealthy and, just last week, a corporate tax bill estimated to cost $180 billion, chock full of billions of dollars in tax breaks for wealthy oil and gas companies and other special interests. One Washington Post article quoted a tax lobbyist involved in its drafting to concede the bill “has risen to a new level of sleaze.” That is far and away from sacrifice.

Additionally, late last year we expanded Medicare, an already ailing entitlement program, by adding a costly prescription drug benefit. To make matters worse, that law’s price tag grew from an estimated $400 billion when it was passed by Congress, to $534 billion just three months later. It pains me to acknowledge that the biggest expansion of Medicare since its inception happened under a Republican administration and under the Republican leadership of both Houses of Congress. The party that was long known to be the guardian of the treasury is now its routine raider.

Not long ago, we used to talk about the “lock box.” But let’s get a little more basic. Let’s consider the “alarm clock.” We need one big wake up call in Washington. According to the General Accounting Office, the unfunded Federal financial burden (such as public debt, future Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid payments) totals more than $40 trillion or $140,000 per man, woman and child. To put this in perspective, the average mortgage (which is often a family’s largest liability) is only $124,000 – and that is often borne by the family breadwinners, not the children too. Instead of fixing the problem, and fixing it will not come easy, we only succeeded in making it bigger, more unstable, more complicated and much, much more expensive.

As mind-boggling as expanding Medicare has been, nothing tops my confusion with the rationale for cutting taxes during wartime. I don’t remember ever in the history of warfare when we cut taxes. I hope everyone can agree that the first duty of government is to defend the people. As you know, the Department of Defense just asked us for $25 billion. We were told we would not need to provide a supplemental appropriation until next year - but they asked for it last week. It’s fine - we need to give them what the need to succeed. But look at what we passed that same week - a $180 billion giveaway to the special interests in the form of a “corporate tax” bill that contained nearly $18 billion energy related provisions and tax breaks for the big oil and gas companies.

Ten years ago, in 1994, Republicans won control of both Houses of Congress. For one brief shining moment, we employed true fiscal restraint and eventually managed to balance the budget and even attain that which had seemed unattainable- a surplus! Now, at a time of national crisis, we have thrown caution to the wind and continue to spend, and spend, and spend - all the while cutting taxes. The perfect evidence of this is the number of Congressional earmarks found in the 13 annual appropriations bills. In 1994 there were 4,126 earmarks - this year there were 14,040 earmarks. Where are our priorities?

Thousands miles from here young men and women are putting everything on the line so we can be free. And what have we sacrificed? Seriously, think about it carefully. Name one thing that Congress has told the special interests and their fat-cat lobbyists to do without since this war began. Now think about America’s finest under fire in Iraq and Afghanistan and the sacrifice they’re making on our behalf. We asked them to go half way across the world to help make a better life for people they’ve never met, and possibly to die in the process. In return, the least we can do is to make America a better place for them and their children, they’ve earned it.

Forgot to add the link:
http://mccain.senate.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=NewsCenter.ViewSpeech&Content_id=1287

Hmmm, though I’m often accused of leaning to the left, I’m also strongly for fiscal responsibility and reduction of government. Frankly, government and it’s imposition into our lives is a pain in the ass and we could all use less of it.

I’m guessing that when the US was founded that special interest groups and the profit motive were not so prominent in society. I’d imagine they expected people to represent their own thoughts and beliefs when elected and to make decisions in that capacity.

However, this is a far cry from the way things actually occur. With partisan politics and extremely powerful special interest groups there might just be a deformation of the process.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m not left bashing, right bashing or US bashing, so don’t get your nuts in a knot.

I’m just wondering if there are ways to rectify the situation. Given the way people actually behave (as opposed to the utopian ideal) how could we reduce the power of interest groups or parties? Is it desirable to do so?

V

That’s very true. The American Revolution wasn’t about the tyranny of the British, it was about a British-backed army enforcing taxation and runaway corporations (special interests).

First off - I’m proud that McCain is one of my senators, I’m hoping to get an internship with him sometomes next year.
Secondly, this is something that does not need to be partisan. Even if Kerry gets elected next year, he should address this this issue.
Third, this is the exact reason with some Republicans will not vote for Bush. Only 4 of 5 plan to do so. I do think, however, that pragmatism will overule idealism in November. (But that’s a different post.)
Fourth, which I’d never think I’d say:
Lumpy: I agree with you!!

I watched most of the rest of that conference.

One thing that was mentioned is when there is a single party controlling all branches of government (Repub or Dems controlling White House, Senate and House) spending tends to go up.

Bush’ revolting runaway spending and elimination of the enormous budget surplus CLinton left him is yet another nail in his coffin.
FUnny how I haven’t heard any Repubs on this board praise Clinton and deride Bush for their respective fiscal results. I guess BJs are more fun to talk about.

The thing is, one of the founding ideologies of Republicanism is limited spending and limited taxation. Repub usually = fiscal conservative. Except of course when it comes to the military. Star Wars, $2 Billion dollars to build one B2 bomber (so that’s how they picked out the name!) etc are all good purchases.

Yet Bush has cut taxation only for the wealthy and corporations, while sending spending thru the stratosphere!

What’s the point of tax cuts when spending skyrockets? Its a formula for disaster.

Iraq aside, how can a Repub want to re-elect BUsh based on his spending?

Good thing he’ll lose