House Speaker-in-waiting Paul Ryan is suddenly supporting the big-spending budget deal that effectively writes lame-duck President Obama a blank check to rack up debt.
“What I’ve heard from members over the last two weeks is a desire to wipe the slate clean, put in place a process that builds trust, and start focusing on big ideas,” Ryan said in a statement reported by Politico. “What has been produced will go a long way toward relieving the uncertainty hanging over us, and that’s why I intend to support it. It’s time for us to turn the page on the last few years and get to work on a bold agenda that we can take to the American people.”
As Politico notes, Ryan’s previous criticism of the deal to his Republican colleagues was quite pointed, including a declaration that the process “stinks.” But now he expresses optimism that the deal will include “meaningful reforms to strengthen our safety net programs, including significant changes to bolster Social Security,” and fund the military, as well as providing an opportunity to “return to regular order in our budget process.” His evaluation has been upgraded from stinky to “some good, some bad, and some ugly.”
Let’s be clear about what is happening here: it’s our new national winter holiday, the festival of unrestrained government spending and debt accumulation that should be marked on the calendar as the Festival of Cromnibus.
The process Ryan accurately described as pungent involves letting everything slide until the end of the year, when funding the government becomes a looming crisis… and those with a sense of fiscal responsibility cower beneath its shadow. The Obama years have taught Republicans they will always lose fiscal-cliff dramas, no matter how blatant the aggression of Democrats is. The GOP devoutly thinks it will always be blamed for government shutdowns, so it plans to capitulate before Democrats and their media auxiliaries have an opportunity to start clubbing members with op-eds.
The patently absurd Democrat talking point that “government shutdowns” or budgetary impasses will cause the United States to instantly default on its sovereign debt, stop issuing Social Security checks, and collapse is now enshrined in Beltway culture as something akin to a religious commandment.
We don’t have anything even conceptually resembling budgets or fiscal discipline any more. The essential feature of writing a budget is that income determines spending. The prudent budget writer looks at how much money he has to spend, and carefully prioritizes spending to address his critical needs, making hard compromises and dropping luxuries as he approaches the low end of that priority scale.
Instead, Washington’s finances are now entirely demand-driven. Debt will be accumulated without end, and when it causes a fiscal crisis that can’t be ignored, the irresponsible politicians who racked up the debt will use it as a weapon against taxpayers, arrogantly ordering them to pay higher taxes as an act of patriotic responsibility. Barack Obama nearly doubled the national debt in a single presidential term; if his successor is a Democrat, they will very likely double it again. Bernie Sanders explicitly threatens to do so with his $18 trillion spending agenda. The only two things we’re told government cannot afford are tax cuts, and investigations of official corruption.
The standard Republican “we’ll fight next time” response has devolved into a vague assurance that if they have the White House and solid majorities in both houses of Congress, they’ll do something-or-other about fiscal restraint. But when someone like presidential candidate Ben Carson says he wants to start writing balanced budgets at the beginning of each year, he’s dismissed as a lunatic.
Obama brags about cutting the deficit, but still demands annual no-strings debt limit increases forever. Such is the spirit of Cromnibus, where everyone talks about responsibility, but no one dreams of acting that way.