Habitual government deficits must end

Stephen Ontko

The size and scope of the federal government’s budget continues to increase despite yet another large growth in the deficit. American voters now have an opportunity to elect officials who have the ability to start reigning in on the problem, as long as those candidates first address out-of-control spending.

The Congressional Budget Office found the federal deficit reached $407 billion for fiscal year 2008 and is projected to increase to $438 billion for 2009, still averaging at around three percent of the gross domestic product for the past 30 years, according to the Wall Street Journal. Critics charge that the wars President Bush leads are the real problem, but the CBO, outlining defense spending, noted that the War on Terror is being fought with less funds than the Cold War, when 5.8 percent of GDP went to defense, as opposed to the WSJ claiming only 4.5 percent of GDP for today.

The wars, however, are mere scapegoats. The real problem is increases in government spending overall, with Democrats no better at controlling spending than Republicans. Federal spending increased by 8.1 percent this year and will increase 7 percent next year. The CBO found that spending has increased by $429 billion under Democratic leadership to $3.158 trillion, over a 13.5 percent increase for two years.

This egregious increase in the federal deficit completely flies in the face of a statement of Nancy Pelosi, current Speaker of the House, when initiating the 110th Congress: “pay as you go, no new deficit spending.” Unfortunately, Sen. Barack Obama will increase deficit spending to an even greater extent.

According to the Tax Policy Center, Obama plans on increasing spending by $648 billion over the next 10 years. Obama’s tax credits are just more government handouts on top of deficits. The Tax Foundation found that his tax cuts for lower/mid-level income earners “would see their federal tax liability fall below zero,” meaning that this income group will receive federal income subsidies.

Democrats in Congress have also failed to ease the deficit or thwart special interests by not stemming earmarks. Obama’s earmark figure reached $931.3 million, nearly a billion dollars in earmarks since he arrived in the Senate, CBS reported Sept. 10. His running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, has sponsored $90 million in earmarks, according to a column by Republican Sen. Jim DeMint that appeared in the WSJ. As of Sept. 10, according to CNN, “Biden’s office said he’s requesting about $300 million” in earmarks for fiscal year 2009. With the second largest amount of earmarks ever passed in Congress, the WSJ reported that Pelosi fell far short of her promise to cut earmarks in half.

In contrast, Sen. John McCain has been a leading proponent of earmark spending reform, and Gov. Sarah Palin has demonstrated strong fiscal disciplinary tendencies. Reuters reported Aug. 28 the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste gave Obama just an 18 percent lifetime rating for disregarding earmark spending, and only gave Biden a 22 percent lifetime rating. Biden actually received the lowest possible rating of zero percent for the year 2007. McCain, on the other hand, received a lifetime rating of 88 percent and has never requested or received an earmark as the council defines it. Gov. Palin is also conscious of taxpayer dollars, as her experience with the Alaska budget shows. She vetoed $268 billion this year, the Boston Herald reported. DeMint wrote that she vetoed more in local projects than any governor in Alaskan history.

The American people have the choice to elect a ticket that doesn’t have the same habitual spending habits as the current government. Let’s just hope change will arrive in the form of rounding up government spending, as McCain and Palin have a record of doing, rather than making government spending greater and more superfluous as Obama and Biden hope/promise.

Stephen Ontko is a senior economics major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].