Democrats Now Share Responsibility for the 2019 Deficit

On January 3, the new Congress was sworn in.  The House of Representatives is now under Democratic control, and Nancy Pelosi is once again speaker.  One of the first things the new House did was to pass rules changes that include PAYGO, the rule that new spending must be offset with budget cuts or revenue increases so that the deficit doesn't get any worse.

A notable defection on this rule vote was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman representative from New York.  She and other far-left progressives don't want their socialist agenda held back by anything as boring as whether or not there's money to pay for it.

If PAYGO was the reason for Ocasio-Cortez's defection, she might as well have voted with the majority.  That's because PAYGO is fraudulent; it can easily be waived and gotten around.  Pelosi ran on PAYGO in 2006, but after grabbing the gavel in 2007, she ran the largest deficits in history.

On January 3, Vox, Ezra Klein's left-wing website, ran "The PAYGO fight roiling House Democrats, explained" by Tara Golshan.  The article's first sentence is "After Republicans ran up the federal deficit by $1 trillion, House Democrats want to establish themselves as the party of fiscal responsibility."

That's so dishonest.  Republicans under Trump never "ran" a deficit of $1T.  What the young lady is referring to are projections for the deficit; she's writing about a possible future deficit, not actual deficits that have been run.  Conservatives and progressives use different assumptions when making their budget projections.  Conservatives use dynamic scoring, which takes into account changed behavior due to tax cuts, while progressives use static scoring.

While trillion-dollar deficits run by Republicans are projections that may never happen, trillion-dollar deficits run by Democrats are fact; they've happened and have been recorded in the annals of history.  Nancy Pelosi was speaker when Congress ran its first trillion-dollar deficits.  Back in January 2011, when Pelosi passed the gavel to Speaker John Boehner, she and the Democrats were running a deficit well above $1T.

When Vox says Republicans "ran up" the deficit by $1T, what's the starting point?  In fiscal 2007, which began when Republicans were still in control of Congress, the deficit was $160B.  In 2009, under Pelosi and the Democrats, the deficit was $1,412B.  That's an actual run-up in the federal deficit of $1.25 trillion in just two years.  Thanks, Nancy!

When alleging trillion-dollar run-ups in the deficit, one must take into account the starting point.  The starting point for the Republicans of the last Congress would be the $438B deficit in 2015, the lowest deficit since 2007.  Since the deficit for 2018 was $779B, Vox should have written that Republicans ran up the deficit by $341B, not $1T.

When it comes to money, the Democrats are children.  Ocasio-Cortez and the other socialist freshmen think they shouldn't have to make a nod to fiscal sanity and alter their plans for more Big Government because Republicans backslid on the deficit with their 2017 tax cuts.  In any event, the article at Vox is a window into the progressive mind on the budget; conservatives might find it interesting, if not for its economics, then from the standpoint of anthropology.

PAYGO is like trying to fit progressive talking points into a Paul Ryan-esque worldview[.] ... As Democrats gear up for a presidential election against Donald Trump, some Democrats are left wondering why the party is letting Republicans write the script on the economy.

"The message [Democratic leaders] are sending is that we as a party, Democrats, stand for fiscal discipline," Stephanie Kelton, a progressive economist with Stony Brook University, said.  "What I hear is that Democrats are willing to prioritize budget outcomes over human ones."  [Kelton is an advocate of printing money.] ...

This is the core of progressives' complaint.  They want to know why they have to rein in their boldest policies when Republicans have been able to pass tax cuts unfettered by budget rules.

One reason we're having this partial government shutdown is because not all of the appropriations have been passed for fiscal 2019.  Democrats are therefore partially responsible for the 2019 budget now that they control the House.  That means that the Dems share responsibility for the current deficit.

But even if all the various budgets and appropriations had already been passed, Democrats would still, as of January 3, be partially responsible for federal spending and deficits.  That's because no Congress can bind a future Congress.  So if Democrats object to the legislation of the last Congress, they can work to undo it.  If the Dems are truly serious about fiscal responsibility, the House can pass rescission bills to cut spending and pass tax hikes to raise revenue.  All that's necessary is that they make a persuasive case to Senate Republicans.

If Democrats are really concerned about the deficit, let them (for once) propose some spending cuts.  Since they've always been averse to spending cuts, let me offer some help: only the federal employees who are working during the shutdown without pay should receive back pay.  Furloughed federal employees who have not worked during the shutdown should not be paid when the shutdown ends.

Yes, that would be so "mean."  Even so, isn't it rich that essential workers must work during the shutdown if they are to be paid, while nonessential workers get to take a holiday for which they expect to be paid?  (Lesson: When seeking employment with the feds, apply for the nonessential jobs.)

If the Democrats can't bring themselves to vote no on this scam of paying people not to work, then what spending are they willing to cut?

Jon N. Hall of ULTRACON OPINION is a programmer from Kansas City.