The dust has barely settled from the contentious midterms, and the battle lines are already being drawn for the next legislative fight in Washington: the debt ceiling. With the nation at unprecedented levels of indebtedness, the choice in this fight is a stark one: a path toward stability or fiscal Armageddon.
If that sounds hyperbolic, consider the following facts about America’s finances.
Inflation is running rampant, federal spending is out of control, gas prices are at an all-time high and Americans are pessimistic on the future outlook of the economy. So what is President Joe Biden’s solution?
He has released a budget proposal that includes 36 tax increases on families and businesses totaling $2.5 trillion over the next decade. Alarmingly, this includes 11 tax increases on the oil and gas industry, taxes that will put a burden on households.
The budget doesn’t even include all the tax increases being pushed by Democrats because the budget omits the cost of tax increases within their stalled multi-trillion dollar Build Back Better Act. Instead of detailing these tax increases, the Biden budget includes a placeholder asserting that any new spending will be fully offset.
Tense negotiations have continued for months on Democrats’ proposed several trillion dollars in federal spending, leading to major changes for the plan. Notably, Democrats now say the $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure”plan will likely end up closer to $2 trillion, though that figure still remains too high for many lawmakers.
At the same time, President Joe Biden has still been unable to rally Congress around a method to actually pay for the proposal, which Biden claims will add nothing to the national debt.
Democrats’ separate, roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill appeared set to pass in recent weeks, but some progressive Democrats withheld their support fearing that giving up their votes would cost them leverage in making sure the larger reconciliation bill is passed and signed into law.
This week’s Golden Horseshoe goes to a broad sweep of federal agencies for a systemic lack of transparency that is hampering efforts to monitor many billions of dollars in COVID-19 relief spending, according to a report by the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee.
The PRAC was established in 2020 by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to “promote transparency and conduct and support oversight” of more than $5 trillion in pandemic relief funds.
In a report released Wednesday, the watchdog details its difficulty in determining how funds are being spent due to federal agencies’ poor reporting on the government spending website, USAspending.gov.
Over the course of the pandemic, federal overspending has exploded even by Congress’s lofty standards. While trillion-dollar deficits were a cause for concern before 2020, spending over just the last two years is set to increase the national debt by over $6 trillion. It’s bizarre, then, that the only thing that members of opposing parties in Congress can seem to work together on is fooling the budgetary scorekeepers with phantom offsets for even more spending.
In total, the bipartisan infrastructure deal includes around $550 billion in new federal spending on infrastructure to take place over five years. Advocates of the legislation claim that it is paid for, but they are relying on gimmicks and quirks of the budget scoring process to make that claim.
Take the single biggest offset claimed — repurposing unused COVID relief funds, which the bill’s authors say would “raise” $210 billion (particularly considering that at least $160 billion have already been accounted for in the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) baseline). Only in the minds of Washington legislators does this represent funds ready to be used when the national debt stands at over $28 trillion.
Wildly excessive federal spending is causing major inflation and shortages, which may lead to a recession and perhaps a financial crisis. Despite the evidence of inflation, Congress is proposing to spend $3.5 trillion on top of the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill passed earlier this year and the intended $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. For comparison, federal revenue is only expected to be $3.8 trillion this year.
Evidently, the Democratic Party and President Joe Biden have adopted Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) to the peril of every American citizen. MMT, which is similar to Keynesian economics, says that the U.S. should not be constrained by revenues in federal government spending since the government is the monopoly issuer of the U.S. dollar. MMT is a destructive myth that provides cover for excessive government spending. And it’s not modern, since reckless government spending has been around for thousands of years.
Embracing MMT is similar to providing whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. We know the outcomes will not be good.
As President Joe Biden promotes his several trillion dollars in proposed federal spending, Republicans and small businesses are raising the alarm, arguing the taxes needed to pay for those spending plans are a threat to the economy.
The House Ways and Means Committee met Thursday to discuss infrastructure development and in particular the impact of proposed tax increases to pay for it. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the ranking member on the committee, argued that only 7% of Biden’s proposed infrastructure bill goes to infrastructure and that raising taxes would incentivize employers to take jobs overseas.
“As bad as the wasteful spending is, worse yet, it’s poisoned with crippling tax increases that sabotage America’s jobs recovery, hurts working families and Main Street businesses, and drives U.S. jobs overseas,” Brady said. “We cannot fund infrastructure on the backs of American workers.”
As the U.S. climbs out of a once-in-a-century pandemic, rising prices have led to increasing worry that rapid inflation could be just over the horizon.
Americans have already witnessed higher prices in the past few months, with everything from gasoline to lumber to basic home items jumping in cost. The increases, partially fueled by non-existent interest rates and record government spending, could lead to inflation that the U.S. has not seen in decades, experts say.
“In the short term, consumers can expect to see rising prices across the board,” Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a columnist at The Washington Post, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “I expect in the next few months people will be getting sticker shocked in virtually all aspects of their life.”