Steve A. Stone
Dear Friends and Patriots,
The title is the one sent to me from my congressman. My own thought about that is that it might be more true if it said: "House Republicans Continue to Try."
Does that sound reasonable or not? You decide. I just tell you what I think and encourage everyone to do only two things—understand what's going on and make up your mind about it.
So, what IS going on? Not really a whole lot. The House passes bills, then sends them to the Senate, knowing full well the Senate will lard things onto them and the joint resolution committees are most likely to compromise to one extent or another. No matter what "savings" anyone in Congress claims, there is only one way to judge such things, and it isn't by looking at appropriations bills, nor even the budgets. How do I do it? I look at what ends up spent.
Budgets are spending plans. When you consider the spending plan of the U.S., you have to scratch your head. How can Congress PLAN to spend far more than they know will be coming in? Why would anyone or any group ever PLAN to do that? Today, with the U.S. dollar under attack by the BRICS nations and others who are nervous about how weak the dollar is getting, one might think our Congress would take some budgetary measures in order to shore up the currency. One might think Congress would understand that the FED's actions are one part of our impending monetary collapse, but the major factor, the REAL problem, is runaway spending. If that train of thought is valid, then so is the hope that Congress might throttle back on their PLANS to spend first, then on their appropriations. In other words, if our Congress doesn't learn how to be budget hawks, and immediately, our economic fate is certain. We won't know the day or time when our economy will collapse, but we know it can't be avoided. Home economics tells us that. How long can any family run a household by spending 30% more than their income, then financing the rest on credit cards? How long indeed. That scheme was almost doable as long as the Fed was able to play the Quantitative Easing game and keep the debt instrument interest at or near zero. But, those days are gone, With T-Bill rates now around 5%, things are looking mighty iffy.
What do I want to see? I want to see budgets that reflect the truth of the economic crisis we're in. Back when our national debt was in the high teens there was talk about the economic "Point of No Return." At the time, the thought was we couldn't sustain debt of more than $21T. QE and the interest at zero made it possible to rack up several trillion more in debt—but someday it will all come due. For the past year our debt has been laden with interest. We are fast reaching the point where tax revenues ($4T for 2021 tax year) will have to be dramatically increased if we're to stay solvent. In 2021, the interest on our national debt was $352B. Keep in mind, as the debt curve goes up, so do the debt interest payments. Our debt growth curve has resulted in a dramatic increase in interest payments. On October 13 of this year, the Treasury released a report indicating our country spent $659B to service our national debt in 2023. That number is interest only. No debt is being retired. It just gets rolled over. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects our debt interest payments at $745 in 2024, with a rise to $1.4T in 2023. Based on CBO projections, if we don't reform our Congress and stop spending, our gross federal debt, which is now 124% of GDP, will climb to 129% by 2033, and is on target to reach 192% by 2053. In fiscal year 2023, the federal government is estimated to have spent $6.3 trillion. Of that $6.3 trillion, $4.8 trillion is estimated to be financed by federal revenues. The remaining amount will be financed by debt.
I don't know about you, but these numbers strike me as terrifying. Does anyone think such a financial situation is sustainable? Would you ever try to run your house, your company, your city, or your state that way? Ask yourself this—WHAT IS CONGRESS DOING TO US? Now, ask—WHY?
While you're trying to cope with the numbers, cope with this. Our budget is bifurcated into two pots of expenditures—non-discretionary (or mandatory) and discretionary. What's in that mandatory pot? All 62 or 68 welfare programs (I never can keep up with the actual number), as well as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. None of the mandatory spending programs are part of the annual appropriations process. What does that mean? It means the budgets for all those programs are, to a great extent, either pre-determined or guaranteed. In the case of welfare programs, the annual budget increases as a percentage of the eventual top line is fixed in the language of enacting legislation. Their increases are 100% guaranteed, and the legislation has language that makes each and every one of those programs almost impossible to revise, cancel, or to decrement. Congress can add to them, but anything else essentially requires the entire legislature to agree to pass a totally new statute. In the history of the U.S. Congress, no welfare program has ever been cancelled. Unless they get fiscal "religion" someday, it's not likely to happen either. That's why every program in the mandatory budget category is referred to as a "third rail" of politics. Third rail is a metaphor that refers to subway lines in major cities, where the power is fed to the rail car motors by way of a powered third rail that runs between the main tracks. Touch the third rail and you risk instantaneous death. The same is true for any career in politics. Even a proposal to revamp a welfare program has the potential to end a politician's chance to be re-elected.
So, we know what's considered mandatory and untouchable, but what's discretionary? The word implies those are things we can decide, and where we can take immediate savings—things that we might be able to do without. Well, maybe not. It's true that federal worker salaries are discretionary, but it seems no one in Congress has figured out how to deal with the number of people who suck off that teat. Then we have things like the Department of Defense. DoD? Yes, think about that for a moment. The defense of the nation is a Constitutionally mandated function of the government, and has been from the first day—yet DoD's budget is discretionary, while provably (and proven) irrelevant programs like Head Start are mandatory. The Veterans Administration funding is discretionary. Every part of the Department of Homeland Security is discretionary.
Do you recall the instruction booklet that comes with your tax return? Did you ever look at it and notice it has a pie chart that tells us how our tax money is spent? If you look at it, you'll discover that about 63 percent of the federal budget is mandatory spending, 30 percent is discretionary spending, and the rest is interest payments on debt. Now, consider this: according to the CBO, the federal government has spent $1.70 trillion more in 2023 than the $4.4T it collected. That indicates the deficit was around 39%. Think of that. 30% is discretionary. 39% is the deficit. That means DoD, Homeland Security, the VA, and everything else that's not a welfare or other entitlement program is financed by debt. It also means about 9% of the mandatory spending is financed by debt. Do you think that's right? Do you think it's in any way smart? Do you think any nation could be viable for long with this kind of financial execution?
The Constitution does not include the terms "discretionary" and "non-discretionary." The Constitution does not indicate any sort of division or priority of the budget at all. Where did that come from? It came via the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. How could that be? Wasn't Jerry Ford, a good and conservative Republican, our President then? Yes, he was, but Congress was 60% Democrat in 1974, both in the House and Senate. They wanted to protect the welfare state that had been constructed over the previous ten years, and the CBA of 1974 was the way they did it.
Today, the per-capita debt of the US is somewhere around $93,000. The median average income in the country is around $67,000. Understand the first number is everyone, while the second is a household calculation. Are you getting the true picture yet?
Congressman Carl's last paragraph below is telling to me. "House Republicans are continuing to work for you, and we are not slowing down anytime soon. We’ve got a wide-open border, high inflation, rising fuel prices, and an Administration that is hell-bent on pushing our national debt even higher. That’s why we are tackling all these problems headfirst and refuse to give up or back down." Really? When I examine what the hard-working Republicans are doing for us I have to say—it's impossible for them to go any slower or be much less effective. They haven't fixed a single problem that I know of yet. Everything they agree to spend our money on only increases our debt. Everything is mortgaged now. The future of children not yet born is to be slaves, working their whole lives to pay for the spending we've watched accrue over the past decade—spending that seemingly has no end. I'm reminded of the admonishment I used to hear a lot—"Work smarter, not harder." For many reasons, we don't have the time or space for right now, I'm inclined to believe our Congress neither works very hard, nor does much that's smart. If either were true, would we be in the huge mess we're in now?
How is this nation to ever restore any fiscal sanity? Start with electing real Republicans. By "real," I mean true fiscal conservatives who insist on real budgets. The CBA of 1974 needs to be rescinded. We need a totally new philosophy in our government; one that pays heed to the needs of those who are paying their taxes. When I look at everything in government today, I come away with the impression that the needs of hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding citizens of our nation aren't apparent in any list of our government's priorities. We are taken for granted and largely forgotten.
Want to get some positive attention from your government? I recommend you book a cruise to a Central American country. Think of Costa Rica. Take a cruise down to Costa Rica and spend a few days there having some fun. Then, go to a department store and buy yourself some really good walking shoes. Don't worry about the cost—make sure they're really good shoes. On your fifth day in Costa Rica, get a map that shows you how to find the Pan-American Highway and make your way there. You'll almost certainly find people strolling along the side of the road. Join them. When you see a bus coming along that's heading north, with people getting on—join them. Don't worry about the cost—it'll be paid for. Keep heading north until you find yourself either at the Rio Grande or the border of the U.S. in Arizona. Find a Port of Entry and get in line. When the ICE people ask you where you're from, tell them you're from Belize. Why Belize? Because its official language is English. Don't worry about a passport. You won't need one. Don't worry about food. You'll be fed. Don't worry about a place to stay. You'll most likely end up spending your first night in an average grade hotel, but afterward you may get whisked by bus and plane to a large city, where you'll spend a good amount of the rest of your vacation in a very nice hotel. Don't worry about the cost—that's covered! Who pays for all that —YOU DO! You may as well get some benefit out of doing so. When things are near their end and you're found out to be an imposter, then told to go to your real home, reflect back and understand who our government truly exists for. One thing is easy to comprehend—it doesn't exist for you. It doesn't exist for me, either.
Many years ago I took a graduate class in finance. The focus of the class was on the federal budget. The professor started out on the first day with a statement, "If you want to understand the actual philosophy of anyone, just look at how and where they spend their money. The very same thing is true when you're dealing with a government. If you want to understand what and who is truly important to your government, just spend some time understanding what's in the budget." He then spent every moment of the class proving his point. Today, I can look at the federal budget our government is operating under and tell you with 100% certainty that my government doesn't give a single damn about me.
– Forwarded message –From: Congressman Jerry Carl
Date: Tue, Oct 31, 2023 at 9:57?AM
Subject: House Republicans Continue Delivering Results
House Republicans Continue Delivering Results
Despite a few weeks of turmoil in Washington, House Republicans are continuing to deliver results for the American people, just as we have done since taking the Majority back in January.
Under Speaker Mike Johnson’s leadership, the first thing we did last week was pass a bipartisan resolution standing with Israel as it defends itself against Hamas and other terrorists. I was proud to join 412 of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle in passing this resolution because America will always stand with Israel.
After passing this resolution, House Republicans passed the next stand-alone Appropriations bill. We passed the Energy & Water Development Appropriations bill, which supports our national security by modernizing our nuclear systems and promoting energy security and economic competitiveness, all whileclawing back more than $5.5 billion of wasteful spending in Biden’s so-called Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). This bill also prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars to advance Critical Race Theory (CRT) or to implement Biden admin executive orders on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Overall, this bill is a win for the American people and reins in government overreach and wasteful spending.
The House has now passed 5 of the 12 annual Appropriations bills, and we are working on 3 more this week. We’ve passed the Defense Appropriations bill which modernizes the military, gives our servicemembers the tools they need, and ensures we are countering China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, all while cutting over a billion dollars in waste. We blocked $20 billion in ridiculous requests from President Biden and instead focused every dollar to address our warfighting needs, keep America safe, and support service members and their families. We also passed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill to fully fund veteran’s programs and give our veterans the care they deserve.
We’re making our national security (which includes border security) a top priority, as well. That’s why the House-passed Homeland Security Appropriations bill provides record funding to build the wall, hire new Border Patrol agents, and stop the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs into our communities, all while cutting over a billion dollars from last year’s spending. For example, we cancelled $312 million for climate change activities in the IRA and redirected money to secure the border. We also cut out $4.7 billion for a Biden admin slush fund to process and release more illegal aliens into our country. These are just the highlights of some of the wins in the bills we’ve passed, and we’ve got a lot more coming down the road.
House Republicans are continuing to work for you, and we are not slowing down anytime soon. We’ve got a wide-open border, high inflation, rising fuel prices, and an Administration that is hell-bent on pushing our national debt even higher. That’s why we are tackling all these problems headfirst and refuse to give up or back down.
Member of Congress© Steve A. Stone
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.