New York Post, May 31, 2023
by James Bovard
The biggest peril of the Biden-McCarthy budget deal is spawning the illusion federal spending is under control. Both President Joe Biden and Republican congressional leaders can claim victory and lull Americans into believing rising national debt is no longer a deadly financial peril to their future. But there is a better way.
This debt-ceiling raise is another profound failure of the DC political class that perpetually spends trillions of dollars it doesn’t have. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) condemns the deal: “No one sent us here to borrow an additional $4 trillion to get absolutely nothing in return.” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) laments that “government [spending] grew 40% or by $2 trillion from 2019 to 2023.”
Many Republicans complain the agreement locks in higher COVID-era spending levels.
The deal suspends the debt ceiling until January 2025. Considering politicians’ reckless spending proclivity, this sounds like a St. Augustine “solution”: “Lord, give me chastity and self-control — but not yet.”
The deal “papers over” this year’s $1.5 trillion budget deficit. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) translates that into everyday American life: “We’ll be taking out a second mortgage this week to pay off the credit cards but it’s not until September that we’re actually buying the bass boat, the tanning bed, and a big screen TV.”
The budget deal applies the ultimate fuzzy math to federal spending levels. If you or I cut our grocery budget, we have less money for food. When Congress cuts “discretionary spending,” it is like someone planning to buy caviar and instead purchasing foie gras and truffles and then boasting of his frugality.
House members can contemplate that paradox while enjoying the $79 tax-free daily meal allowance (no receipts needed, wink wink) they recently gave themselves.
Before celebrating the latest accord, recall how previous budget deals were Pyrrhic victories for taxpayers:
* In 2011, a bipartisan deal supposedly cut federal spending by $38 billion — out of $3.8 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office later revealed the actual amount saved was only $352 million in that fiscal year. Unfortunately, a 99% sham rate is about par for spending cuts. As CNN noted, “Congress watered down the  deficit reduction provisions by repeatedly increasing the caps on discretionary spending in the following years.”
* In 2015, Republican congressional leaders bragged that a $1 trillion spending deal with President Barack Obama “helps to stop waste and administrative overreach.” But the only “pro-freedom” mandate in the 2,000-page bill was a request for the Capitol Police to permit snow sledding on Capitol Hill. Spending kept rising.
Some Republicans favor approving the Biden-McCarthy deal and trusting House members to repair the damage. But oversight of federal spending is the only unnatural act on Capitol Hill. As Milton Berle quipped, “You can lead a man to Congress, but you can’t make him think.”
Control over spending confers control over policy if politicians have brains and courage. But both are AWOL in the debt deal:
* The FBI budget has increased from $9.2 billion in 2019 to $10.8 billion in 2023 — even though the FBI refuses to provide Congress with the memo alleging Vice President Biden took a bribe in 2011. Speaker Kevin McCarthy threatened Tuesday to file contempt charges against FBI boss Chris Wray for not providing that memo. That’s an idle threat since it would need to be enforced by Merrick Garland’s Justice Department.
* The IRS gets 98% of the $80 billion budget increase the Democratic Congress provided last summer. Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) scoffed: “So there will be 85,260 more IRS agents rather than 87,000 to eat you alive. Big win.” The IRS will face no penalty for recently dismissing the entire team of its experts investigating Hunter Biden’s tax frauds.
* The National Institutes for Health budget rose from $39 billion in 2019 to $49 billion in 2023. NIH flaunted its contempt for Congress this month by restarting its financing of bat-coronavirus research in China — despite the 7 million deaths from the COVID leak from the Wuhan lab that NIH previously bankrolled.
The debt-ceiling deal should be named “The No Biden Boondoggle Left Behind Act.” Biden economic adviser Bharat Ramamurti boasted Tuesday that the deal is “locking in” their “incredibly strong set of progressive accomplishments.”
McCarthy claims victory in part because the deal expands the work requirement for able-bodied food-stamp recipients without dependents by raising the age cutoff from 49 to 54. That’s a healthy reform to spur self-reliance. But the impact will be blunted because the feds previously granted statewide waivers exempting most food-stamp recipients nationwide from work. When Congress passed a similar mandate in the Food Stamp Act of 1977, fewer than 1% of able-bodied adults required to register for work actually got jobs.
Roy is leading a push to reject the Biden-McCarthy deal and instead “pass a short-term debt ceiling” extension. That would provide time to negotiate a far better deal, something much closer to the stalwart reform bill the House passed last month. Another short period of political uncertainty is far better than taking another giant step towards national financial ruin.
James Bovard is the author of 10 books and a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors.