On January 14th, Congress voted to increase the federal deficit cap to $12.4 trillion having raised it from $12.1 trillion February of last year. The bill was a concession by Democrats who had planned an attempt to increase the federal deficit cap by $2 trillion in order to prevent having to call another vote before next year’s midterm elections. Already, Democrats are pushing to increase the deficit cap again by mid-February to prevent the U.S. government from spending more than it is allowed and therefore default on certain obligations. Because the government tax revenues simply cannot cover the rate of government spending, both the national debt and the interest on that debt continue to grow. For most Americans, this is cause for concern.
Not for Congress though. The increase to the deficit cap follows on the heels of last year’s huge omnibus spending bill signed into law on December 16, 2009 which earmarked $446.8 billion for special projects and increased federal spending by 10 to 12%. Its the kind of thing that can only make it into legislation in December when lawmakers are in rush to make it to the holiday recess and haven’t had the time to give proper vetting to the measures on the table. It was a holiday surprise for the average tax-payer and a gift to the numerous special interest groups that, sadly, have influence on our lawmakers. We may recall that it was just such an omnibus spending bill that legalized Credit Default Swaps. In 2009, despite the fact that the federal government had reached the limit of money that it could borrow, the omnibus spending bill wrapped together 6 different lesser spending bills and had provisions for over 6,000 back home projects for the lawmakers who sponsored it.
We might keep in mind that the bill increased federal spending BEFORE a vote had been passed to raise the deficit limit. Had that bill not passed, the U.S. would have, for the first time ever defaulted on its obligations. Thus, with Congressional coffers depleted in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression, the federal government willingly went deeper into debt, past reasonable limit, so that Kansas City could get $2.5 million dollars for a new Community Center, so that Port Everett could get $1.2 million to improve its infrastructure, or so that we could begin funding a federal needle exchange program for junkies. According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington-based watchdog group, the measure contained 5,224 pet projects for lawmakers worth $3.9 billion in total.
So, for the holidays, as we were all feeling the pinch of this recession, Congress continued its rampant spending habits as if nothing were wrong. Not even the threat of reaching the debt limit deterred them from conducting business as usual. This is a habit which we, as Americans, can no longer tolerate. While we agree that the government’s help is needed, what we want is for the federal government to make investments that will pay off for the betterment of America’s future. Spending for the sake of spending simply increases the burden of debt on our children and on our grandchildren.