Sen. Rand Paul was right to put his foot down and call hypocrisy by its name. The Kentucky Republican briefly forced a government shutdown early Friday by delaying a Senate vote required to advance the government’s spending authority. Paul was making a point that needed to be made.
“I ran for office because I was very critical of President Obama’s trillion-dollar deficits,” Paul stated. “Now we have Republicans hand in hand with Democrats offering us trillion-dollar deficits. I can’t in all honesty look the other way.”
He added: “I didn’t come up here to be part of somebody’s club. I didn’t come up here to be liked. … The hypocrisy hangs in the air and chokes anyone with a sense of decency or intellectual honesty.”
The hypocrisy he referred to was mainly on the Republican side of the aisle, but the label applies equally to any Democrats who believe the government’s deficit is out of control and that the time is long overdue to impose fiscal discipline. Paul’s party spent eight years complaining and moaning about Democrat deficits, Democrat social spending and Democrat economic-rescue measures. The GOP largely owes its 2016 election victories to the party’s demonization of Democrats as spendthrifts.
Now that Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House, the party finally has an opportunity to impose the kinds of fiscal discipline that the Republican platform calls for. Instead, on Friday, they emerged with a 600-page plan that winds up outspending the Democrats at every turn and pushing the federal deficit to levels not seen since the height of the recession.
Arguably the deficits run up during President Barack Obama’s administration were necessary to counteract the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression. Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package was derided daily by Republicans, but it launched the nation on the positive economic trajectory that President Donald Trump now falsely claims as his own.
If ever there were a time for fiscal discipline, it’s now, when the nation stands at full employment and the economy needs no artificial stimulus measures. But the nation already faces a cash crunch because the GOP in December forced through a $1.5 trillion tax cut (which Paul supported).
The two-year, $300 billion package approved on Friday and signed by Trump will force the annual deficit beyond the $1 trillion mark by fiscal year 2019. The plan busts the spending caps that Congress imposed in 2013 specifically to avoid adding to the deficit.
Republicans rationalize increasing deficits if it means tax cuts for rich people and bolstering Pentagon spending. Democrats justify it to ensure social welfare programs are adequately funded. “I love bipartisanship, as you know,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. “But the problem is the only time we discover bipartisanship is when we spend more money.”
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch