James Pezzullo | Syracuse University
My father has been a vocal conservative since long before I was born. He used to tell me he’d only fly on planes with two right wings, and as such, I grew up on a steady diet of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and all their conservative talk radio pals. I didn’t hear music on the radio until my teen years.
I’ve grown out of some of the beliefs I was born into. But I was raised to believe in fiscal responsibility, and I was taught that the Republicans believed in it, too. The Democrats wanted to spend money they didn’t have, and that’s why the Republicans needed to beat them every year. This commitment to a small government – a thrifty government – has stuck with me. The Republican party in Washington, however, has left me behind.
President Trump’s tax cuts are expected to expand the deficit. I tend towards the belief that they will stimulate enough productivity to make up some of the gap, but the fact is that we need to be doing more to shrink the deficit. Our national debt has just surpassed $21 trillion, and it is frightening to watch it grow so rapidly. We cannot keep kicking this can down the road to the next generation. Something needs to be done, now.
For 8 years, we watched the debt balloon under President Obama. For comparison, George W. Bush expanded the debt by $4.3 trillion in his entire eight-year tenure as President; President Obama had grown the debt by more than that before the end of his third year. Republicans were energized by Obama’s reckless spending habits and recaptured the legislature in 2014. 2015 saw the smallest deficit of Obama’s tenure, and I began to feel hopeful that if we could get a Republican in the White House, we might be able to finally stop the bleeding and potentially balance the budget.
President Trump was elected as something of a populist, and his extravagant image made it difficult to believe that fiscal restraint was in the cards for his administration. Still, I hoped that his Republican allies would help him see reason. President Trump is a businessman, I thought – perhaps naively – and he must’ve learned in his time at Wharton that massive debt and organizational success are antithetical.
Instead, Republicans in Congress turned around and passed a massive spending bill back in February – and then another infrastructure plan the next week, that would cost the federal government another $200 billion. At the time, they claimed that there would be spending cuts to offset these spending hikes – and that was the last we heard of the matter. The bill was passed, the checks were written, and the national debt continued to soar. And just a few weeks ago, the President signed a massive omnibus spending bill that was more of the same from the Obama administration. Again, Republicans gave no specifics on how they would pay for the increased spending.
It’s very simple. Tax reform will reduce government revenues, at least in the short term. Without any efforts to offset that reduction, the debt will balloon even faster – but it’s not the elites in Washington who have to foot the bill. It’s America’s youth that will face the consequences.
This was the apocalyptic vision pressed into me by all that afternoon talk radio. A future America that is so riddled with debt that taxes are exorbitant and there’s still no money for even the basic social programs. Schools and infrastructure are crumbling, and anyone who can afford to leave the country gets out as quick as they can.
I can even remember a piece on Fox News about selling national parklands to our creditors to avoid the federal government’s bankruptcy. These kinds of fear-mongering tactics were used to great effect when the Democrats were in power. It is absolutely shocking to see the Republicans be just as wasteful – if not more! – with our nation’s financial viability and our people’s future. It is upsetting beyond measure to be betrayed by people you believed in.
Of course, it’s not the Republican base that stopped believing in responsible government. The leaders of the party have forgotten their principles. When November comes, and the Republican House majority is swept away in a Democratic tidal wave, it will be because Republican leaders didn’t give their constituents what they voted for. If you don’t do your job, you get fired. It really is that simple.