What Is On The Table?

May 22, 2012

If you believe the national debt and the federal budget deficit are urgent priorities, then last’s week’s debate on the floor of the House of Representatives offered insight into why it’s so difficult to restrain government spending.

Last Friday, the House of Representatives approved a defense authorization bill that would blow past the spending limits set by last year’s Budget Control Act.  Remember that?  The Budget Control Act was last year’s attempt by Congress to tackle spending in exchange for raising the debt limit.   Specifically, the law laid out steps to reduce the deficit over ten years in exchange for an immediate increase in the national debt ceiling.  And if you look closer at these numbers, many of the “cuts” are not actual reductions in spending — they simply represent a slower rate of spending growth — and entirely come from the discretionary spending category, the smallest part of the federal budget (representing just over one-third of all spending, as of last year).  But the largest part in discretionary spending?  Defense, by far.  To be exact, it consumed nearly 20 percent of total government spending last year.  And the fact remains that many Republicans in the House of Representatives do not want to be constrained in their appetite for defense spending.

Case in point:  the bill the House considered last week.  The legislation (H.R. 4310) that the House adopted would allow the Appropriations Committee to spend up to $8 billion more in defense than is allowed under the Budget Control Act.  So much for spending caps.

If our nation is ever going to get serious about its spending addiction, it requires putting all spending categories–including defense–on the table.

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