Human Events | Seton Motley | Dec. 21, 2007
Want to ensure the growth of government? Forever? The media does, and they have with Liberals devised the perfect way to do it. It is the “pay-as-you-go” Congressional budgeting rule — Pay-Go. It requires every move that Congress makes be “budget neutral”; every new spending initiative must be paid for – no more deficit spending.
How could anyone, Conservatives especially, not be enraptured with such a concept?
It certainly intrigued everyone in Congress in 1990, for it was then that Pay-Go became law as a part of that year’s Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. (It went away in 2002, only to be reinstated in January of this year.)
The problems with Pay-Go, however, became apparent immediately. It did nothing to reduce spending, and everything to prevent tax cuts. This went unreported by the press because it did not fit into their government growth is good narrative.
They instead used it as an opportunity to redefine what “fiscal responsibility” means in Washington.
Before Pay-Go, “fiscal responsibility” meant limiting federal expenditure to what the government could reasonably afford. And in these good old days there were “spending hawks” in Congress, elected officials who actually kept a keen eye focused on ensuring that government never grew too big for its fiscal britches. One, the late Harry Byrd, Sr. of Virginia, was often seen on the Senate floor in objection to some expenditure, asking, “How shall we pay for this?”
Under Pay-Go, spending hawks slowly went the way of the dodo, to be replaced by “deficit hawks”, a breed of bird the media prefers. These creatures are first and foremost concerned with the Congressional bottom line, and are far more willing to raise taxes than reduce spending to maintain it.
The press in unison praised these new “hawks”, and lauded their spendthrift ways as the new definition of “fiscal responsibility.”
Responsibility used to mean frugality; it now means tax hikes to pay for as much government as possible. Accordingly, you can be an Ear-Marxist and still be a “deficit hawk”, so long as you raise taxes enough to foot the bills.
And despite replete examples throughout our history that reducing taxes actually increases the revenue Washington collects, under Pay-Go Congress can not decrease taxes a dollar here without raising taxes a dollar there or cutting spending a dollar somewhere — “budget neutrality”, remember?
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